http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... IVRMTT.DTL
Mark Haskett's cinema paradiso started with a crying baby.
When his infant son had colic, the Alameda resident and stay-at-home father found that "screaming outside isn't quite as bad as screaming inside," and took to wandering the island city's streets. Their travels ended one day at the Alameda Multicultural Community Center, a converted mortuary where the funeral parlor had been turned into an activities room.
"I used to come here for the sing-along. Then word got around that they were closing down," Haskett says. "I've always said, 'You show me an empty room, and I'll show you a movie.' It doesn't even have to be a big empty room."
With a capacity of just 49 - the theater's seating is a hodgepodge of couches and easy chairs found on Craigslist - Haskett says his Central Cinema is the smallest commercial movie theater in the United States. He fought local government attempts to shutter the theater when it opened three years ago, and now operates with the city's blessing. His next challenge comes later this year, when a multiplex opens down the street.
Currently the only movie house in Alameda, Haskett's boutique theater raises immediate questions: How does it make money? Why do the studios let him play first-run movies? How can he compete with bigger theaters? But Haskett, 38, who grew up working in movie houses near Atlanta, says his business model makes even more sense than the much larger stadium-seating theaters in Emeryville and in Oakland's Jack London Square. After getting a small amount of financing, Haskett says he has made a profit since the theater opened in 2004.