SAN LEANDRO — San Leandro resident Dan Dillman is a media mogul in the making.

The energetic 37-year-old is a writer, filmmaker, Web site designer, computer repairman — and a movie theater owner with a grand vision for his city's downtown.

In December 2008, Dillman purchased the languishing Bal Theatre for $750,000 and moved his computer repair business and production company inside.

The lobby of the old, single-screen theater, at 14808 E. St., is now home to computers in various states of assembly, while upstairs Dillman has built a postproduction room where he designs high-end Web sites and produces music and films.

On Friday, Dillman shook his head almost in disbelief as he looked down from the projector room at his 800-seat theater below.

"I haven't had the time yet to sit back and enjoy," he said. "Everything is culminating in this moment in this building. I'm now ready to share with people what I'm doing."

On Nov. 14, the Bal's lobby will be clear of computer parts as the theater reassumes its role as a movie house. Dillman will be premiering "Secrets of the Stone Tablets, In Search of Montezuma's Treasure," a documentary film about his grandfather's quest to find Aztec treasures in the American West.

In January, he will show the Buddhist-themed "Journey From Zanksar," and later "Treason in America, The Council on Foreign Relations," an expose featuring Dillman's personal friend and history researcher Servando Gonzalez.


Advertisement

Dillman's partner, Franco Gonzalez, who is Servando Gonzalez's son, said the Bal will be a venue for more "conspiracy-minded" independent films in the spirit of "Treason in America."

"Dan and I feel that there is a big demand for this type of content at this venue," Gonzales said, citing the underground success of Internet rebel Alex Jones.

The Bal, built in 1946, retains its original art-deco style, with murals of giant topless blondes atop white winged horses on the auditorium walls.

The theater was a downtown destination for decades, until the single-screen venue gave way to multiscreen cineplexes.

As its business waned, the old theater became home to Spanish-language films in the 1970s, then "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and accusations of underage drinking and lewd behavior. It recently had a brief and unsuccessful run as a showplace for Bollywood films.

Plans to tear down the theater and replace it with retail stores nearly came to fruition.

Even with an uncertain business climate for single-screen theaters, Dillman said he is here to stay.

His computer repair business and his production company, Xzault Media Group, provide him with the income to pay the theater's mortgage, so he won't go out of business even if the crowds don't show up for the films, he said.

"We've lost a lot of the vintage theaters," Dillman said. "But people are tired of the multiplex scene. There's a process coming full circle."

Dillman envisions the Bal reclaiming its place as a community focal point for entertainment and the arts, where Bay Area residents convene for the latest in independent film, comedy and music.

"We're going to be here," he said. "We're going to be really working on bringing it back to its original luster."

For more information on the Bal, visit www.baltheatre.com.

Jason Sweeney covers San Leandro. Reach him at 510-293-2469.