There was a time, not all that long ago, when Berkeley had many more movie theaters than we do today. There are many that closed so many years ago we don’t remember them, but – there are some that we remember, gone now.
Just east of Act One and Act Two was King’s Baseball Cards, a great and friendly place.
Jake assembled a great collection of Tony Pena cards and a near-complete run of 1958 Topps cards there in the 1980s.
The Berkeley opened in 1911; S. Charles Lee remodeled and modernized it in 1936 in Moderne style. It closed in 1993. The building was razed. Crepes A-Go-Go is at the address now – new building, no trace.
Ed Landberg opened the Guild in the early 1950s. Pauline Kael married Ed, worked at the theater, divorced Ed, moved to New York, and you know – or should know – the rest. The Guild and Cinema were a big part of what made Telegraph Avenue so cosmopolitan and intriguing in the 1950s.
The theater was long gone when the Sequoia Building, in which the theater had once lived, burned down in 2011.
Pauline Kael and Ed Landberg opened the theater, a former ice cream parlor, as the Berkeley Cinema in 1961. It may be the only commercial cinema in the United States built specifically to showcase art film.
According to Cinema Treasures: “The film offerings were largely foreign films as well as film classics. One Japanese film in the 1960’s ran here for over one year!”
Declining attendance led the way to the Mitchell Brothers purchasing the theater and in January 1974, started running porn.
In the 1980s, the Mitchell Brothers took a run at live sex shows. Live sex shows in Berkeley! On Shattuck Avenue!
There was at least one live show. In Berkeley! On Shattuck Avenue!
It didn’t last long. The Mitchell Brothers folded.
The theater then became the Fine Arts, showing art house fare.
The theater died a first, false death in 1997. It reopened in 1998..
The programming was largely independent film, documentaries, film festivals, and occasional revival product. Many of there films were seldom shown elsewhere.
The theater closed June 30, 2002 and was torn down.
There is an architectural nod to the Fine Arts Cinema, but no cinema.
There was another Fine Arts Cinema, which we probably remember as the Northside, at 1828 Euclid.
William DeNault opened the theater as the Fine Art using the model of the Cinema Guild – two theaters (A and B), reached by the La Val’s courtyard. DeNault took his existing custom stereo business, knocked down the walls of adjoining apartments, and – voila – a movie theater. A restaurant, the Cheshire Cat, also opened onto the courtyard. The theater featured foreign and art films, much like the Cinema Guild.
I saw movies there in the 1980s. The one I remember is Diva. Who can possibly forget Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez singing the aria from Catalani’s La Wally? Certainly not I. It closed in the late 1980s or 1990s. Walls were knocked down and it’s a restaurant now.
The courtyard and La Val’s sign are there. The Northside is not.
I have a vague memory of having seen a movie or two here. I don’t think I understood the movie or movies I saw. Great story!
Royal Robbins outdoor wear and three or four other businesses are there now.
This used to be a movie theatre – the D.K. and then the Sunset,now annexed by Rasputin’s. It didn’t last long. And it didn’t have this marquee. A comment on CinemaTreasures.org wrote: “There’s a bit of an irony here in that when Rasputin annexed the former Sunset (perhaps aware of its past life as a theater), they installed a marquee that looks more like a movie-house marquee than any the Sunset ever had during its life as an actual movie house.”
This photo from the early 1970s bears this comment out. I find the addition of the marquee AFTER it was a theatre to be quirky.
Also on Telegraph:
George Paul ran the Telegraph Repertory Cinema on Telegraph, both at this location and then a few blocks north. The buildings are still there.
The memory of the Alameda Sheriff’s Department blinding Alan Banchard on the roof in 1969 remains. But the theater is gone. There is a lot of reminiscing about the Cinema here.
Those are the gone ones that were here in our living memories. There is a whole other batch that were before our memories, closed now, not a trace.
And then there are the two theaters whose fate is still unknown – not demolished but not open.
The Oaks on Solano opened in 1925. In 1994 it got a whole new look. In 2005 it was taken over by Metropolitan Theatres. An independent operator took over in 2010 and in late December 2010 it shut down.
The Oaks has recently gotten a fresh coat of paint. There are talks of a performance space. Fingers crossed.
The UC opened in 1917 with 1300 seats. Yes, 1300 seats. Gary Meyer bought it in 1974 and starting showing older films, double and triple bills, one night only.
You would pick up the schedule for the month and have it on your refrigerator. Maybe you would circle the movies you wanted to go see. It was not expensive. It was fun.
And Rocky Horror midnights on Saturdays.
The UC closed in 2001 and has remained closed for 13 years. Again – there are plans for Something Great with it. Fingers crossed. There is a great collection of photos of the marquee over the years here.
My friend was almost in a trance when I took this draft post for him to see. He was looking at a photograph and couldn’t let go.
I will admit – it is a stunning photo. I played dirty – I mentioned the midnight shows of Rocky Horror. I knew that would get him. He loved going. Never missed a Saturday. It got his attention. What about all these movie theaters, gone but remembered?