San Francisco Chronicle
Berkeley’s last movie theater is soon closing
Downtown Berkeley is set to lose its last operating commercial movie theater, part of a nationwide downsizing by Regal Cinemas, the secondlargest chain of movie theaters in the U.S. behind AMC.
The Regal UA Berkeley at 2274 Shattuck Ave. is among the 39 locations slated to close after its parent company Cineworld Group announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, according to media reports. In a new bankruptcy filing last week, Cineworld said it will reject the leases for the locations beginning Feb. 15, citing losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in the monthly rent per theater by nearly 30% from 2019 to 2022.
“In total, the debtors estimate that rejecting the Leases will save their estates approximately $22 million annually,” stated the document, which was obtained by Variety. It added that any personal property of little value remaining at the locations will be abandoned.
The Chronicle reached out to the theater chain and was told a representative from Regal was unavailable to comment.
Regal had been one of the most notable holdouts in the gradual reopening of cinemas nationwide following pandemic shutdowns. For nearly half a year, its 7,211 screens and 549 theaters in the U.S. sat dark before reopening at limited capacity in April 2021.
In California, the company is also shutting down theaters in Costa Mesa and Yorba Linda (Orange County); El Cajon and Escondido (San Diego County); Hemet (Riverside County); and Los Angeles, according to Business Insider, which first reported the closures.
The seven-screen Berkeley theater was originally called the United Artists Theater and opened as a single-screen cinema on Sept. 16, 1932, with a showing of David Butler’s comedy “Down to Earth,” starring Will Rogers, Irene Rich and Dorothy Jordan.
At the time, tickets cost 30 cents for general admission
and 40 cents for loge seats at matinees, 45 cents and 69 cents on evenings, Sundays and holidays, and “children 10 cents any time,” reported the Berkeley Daily Gazette, according to a 2007 article on the theater’s 75th anniversary from the Berkeley Daily Planet. In addition to the main feature, the entertainment for the opening night also included a Mickey Mouse cartoon and newsreel.
“Every one of the 1,800 luxurious seats in the theater was filled within five minutes after the doors opened,” the report said. “Twice as many filled the foyers, waiting for an opportunity to obtain seats for the second show.”
The theater is currently showing first-run films including “M3GAN” and “A Man Called Otto.”
Its imminent closure follows a similar fate as Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley, which was one of the premier destinations for movie lovers in the East Bay for more than 30 years but permanently went dark in June.
Everything but the Regal’s facade will likely be demolished to make way for housing. Developer Panoramic Interests last year proposed plans for a “partial removal of the existing commercial structure” to be replaced with a 17-story mixed-use apartment building, with 239 residential units, as well as a ground-level lobby and parking.