Bay Area residents are lamenting the closure of Berkeley’s historic California Theatre, which has screened countless movies to generations of locals since 1913. The famous theater, previously run by the Landmark Theatres chain, has been shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic. Company spokeswoman Margot Gerber confirmed to Berkeleyside that Landmark Theatres will vacate the building because the landlord does not wish to renew its lease.
This week, many items from the theater have been emptied into a large dumpster out front. The historic building now looks to an uncertain future, as it’s not immediately clear what the building owner will decide to do with it.
Good night sweet prince 🥀
— Michael Campos-Quinn (@mcamposquinn) October 18, 2021
In 2015, the California declared the building “historically significant due to its distinctive architecture” and described it as “represent[ing] commercial forms and materials that were prominent in the downtown during the period of historical significance for this building; from 1914-1958.” The building was also found eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The main auditorium was the largest indoor theater in Berkeley, with over 500 seats. The theater played a selection of Hollywood favorites and edgy indie films, often catering to UC Berkeley’s college population.
Landmark Theatres continues to operate these other Bay Area cinemas:
- Embarcadero Center Cinema (1 Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level, San Francisco)
- Opera Plaza Cinema (601 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco)
- Shattuck Cinemas (2230 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley)
- Albany Twin (1115 Solano Ave, Albany)
- Piedmont Theatre (4186 Piedmont Ave, Oakland)
- Aquarius Theatre (430 Emerson St, Palo Alto)
- Del Mar Theatre (1124 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz)
- Nickelodeon Theatre (210 Lincoln St, Santa Cruz)
Landmark Theatres co-founder Gary Meyer expressed hope to Berkeleyside that the theater could be taken over by another operator, or turned into a music venue, so as to continue entertaining patrons out of the historic building. “I’m concerned, I’m hopeful — both at the same time,” he said.
Featured image: John Morgan via Flickr