What's old is new: movie theatres

Slowly but surely movie box office attendance is wilting in the face of ever more attractive home theatre viewing options. On response has been to experiement with different options for the commercial showing of movies. Satdium seating in tiers has been de rigeur for awhile now.

One interesting variant is the remodeling of older single screen neigfhborhood houses into dinner or speakeasy theatres, where patrons can eat a pizza and drink beer while they watch a flick or oftewh a double feature of classics or second run films.

Quite near to where I live, a long closed 1937 art deco theatre is re—opening. The Cerrito Theatre has been remodeled into such a house. Here is what the interior looks like, with seating for noshing, and with the original 1937 art deco murals intact. The sign and marquee for the theatre are equally stylish.

After the theatre closed, it was used as a warehouse for a furniture store next door. When the store went out of business, outsiders got a glimpse of the well—preserved auditorium, and almost immediately a civic group was formed to raise money to restore it as a community symbol and resource. Only a few short years were required to bring it off. It is a nice story, and shows that many communities are serious about their architectural heritage and able to mobilize and act with a degree of alacrity beyond most politician—initiated projects. Bravo fro civil society.

I don't know if this format for a theatre will last. The Cerrito joins another such theatre, the Parkway in Oakland, offering similar format movies. Maybe I will try it once just to see the interior. But frankly, I'd rather watch a big screen at home, skip the extra noise, and be able to pause the action when I want to discuss some plot point or do one sort of business or another.

Thomas Lifson  11 01 06

Slowly but surely movie box office attendance is wilting in the face of ever more attractive home theatre viewing options. On response has been to experiement with different options for the commercial showing of movies. Satdium seating in tiers has been de rigeur for awhile now.

One interesting variant is the remodeling of older single screen neigfhborhood houses into dinner or speakeasy theatres, where patrons can eat a pizza and drink beer while they watch a flick or oftewh a double feature of classics or second run films.

Quite near to where I live, a long closed 1937 art deco theatre is re—opening. The Cerrito Theatre has been remodeled into such a house. Here is what the interior looks like, with seating for noshing, and with the original 1937 art deco murals intact. The sign and marquee for the theatre are equally stylish.

After the theatre closed, it was used as a warehouse for a furniture store next door. When the store went out of business, outsiders got a glimpse of the well—preserved auditorium, and almost immediately a civic group was formed to raise money to restore it as a community symbol and resource. Only a few short years were required to bring it off. It is a nice story, and shows that many communities are serious about their architectural heritage and able to mobilize and act with a degree of alacrity beyond most politician—initiated projects. Bravo fro civil society.

I don't know if this format for a theatre will last. The Cerrito joins another such theatre, the Parkway in Oakland, offering similar format movies. Maybe I will try it once just to see the interior. But frankly, I'd rather watch a big screen at home, skip the extra noise, and be able to pause the action when I want to discuss some plot point or do one sort of business or another.

Thomas Lifson  11 01 06