News

Palo Alto Square theater to remain open -- for now

CinéArts was set to go dark after Thursday night's showings

More than 2,600 signatures and letters from the Palo Alto City Council to the landlord of the CinéArts Theatre in Palo Alto and to theater headquarters appear to have at least temporarily stayed the shuttering of the much-loved movie house.

CinéArts at Palo Alto Square was set to go dark after Thursday night's movie showings, but two days ago theatergoers learned that the movie house would remain open for a longer time, Councilwoman Karen Holman said.

Cinemark, the Texas-based movie-theater chain that owns CinéArts, decided to close the theater after its lease was set to expire in August, a company spokesman previously told the Weekly. Upgrades to the theater would be costly, and rather than investing in the theater, the company decided not to renew the lease.

Holman said that the community galvanized and gathered 2,600 petition signatures in 200 hours. The city first sent a preliminary 1,000-signature petition to Cinemark and to the landlord, Hudson Pacific Properties. That was followed yesterday with the larger, updated petition. A letter from the city is asking that the landlord and Cinemark work together to retain the theater.

"This is such an important resource. It's the only large-seating-capacity, first-run movie theater we have in Palo Alto," Holman said. "It is the venue, I think, to three international film festivals and Metropolitan Opera simulcast performances. It's the place where people get access to Academy Award-nominated movies.

"We really get the cream of the crop in terms of art and cultural film. If we should happen to lose this -- and we will certainly try not to -- it would be a tremendous loss to the community," Holman added.

Addressing the closure has been a bit of a challenge for the city, since the council was on break when officials learned of the closure plans, Holman said. City officials don't know why the theater is remaining open for the time being, but Holman said she hopes the community outpouring has something to do with it.

"I cannot thank the community enough for stepping up. ... I can't tell you how much we appreciate the community support and expressing their wishes. It's really critical," she said.

Most of the petition signatures came from Palo Alto residents and theater patrons. And although signatures aren't being collected now, Holman said there is more work to be done to ensure the theater doesn't close.

"We really want to encourage people to get out and continue their support with their attendance," she said.

Cinemark and Hudson Pacific Properties did not return requests for comment on Wednesday. An employee at CinéArts said that staff cannot comment on plans for the theater or how long it will remain open, but he did confirm that it remains open at this time.

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Comments

23 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Yea!!! That is great news. Just saw Captain Fantastic there last night
and Cafe Society a week or so ago ... great theater.


25 people like this
Posted by Jean
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 3, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Wonderful news!


18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm

This is good news indeed.

Since they had planned to close and are now planning to stay open, do we know what the upcoming movies are going to be? I don't understand how these things work, but I would imagine that they have to order their movies well in advance.

Some idea of how this works would be helpful, and any idea of what movies will be shown in coming weeks and months will be useful. We can do our part, but they must have the same high standard of movies to make it worth our while.

Thanks to everyone involved.


12 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2016 at 6:09 pm

@Resident:

Contact the theatre directly for their future schedule, they are the ones who pick the movies. Don't be surprised if they don't provide much insight as they weren't planning to be operating today.

Movie studios and distribution companies have release calendars. Since most movies are digitally distributed these days, it's not about Theatre A getting a physical print which leaves Theatre B in the lurch.

Palo Alto Square has just two screens, so they have to be very deliberate about which films to screen. A large multiplex like Shoreline 16 doesn't need to worry about that so much. They can screen the biggest/newest blockbusters in one or two of their biggest screens and relegate older/less profitable releases to smaller screens.

As an indie theatre, the onus is on Palo Alto Square's operators to pick the right indie releases. If Film A is a dud, the theatre might miss out on revenue from Film B that was passed up. Advance screenings are sometimes available to people in the industry, but one person's review is not always an accurate barometer of how the paying public will react.

It's the same with any other performance related business: theatre, opera, ballet, symphony, rock concerts, etc., not just specific to the movie industry.


18 people like this
Posted by Ken Horowitz
a resident of University South
on Aug 3, 2016 at 9:54 pm

Wish the City would have put in a better effort two years ago to work with Wheatley Properties and the Silicon Valley YMCA to save the Page Mill Y at 755 Page Mill Road. Fifteen hundred members were displaced then. Petitions were presented to the City Council but no action was taken to save the gym.


4 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2016 at 3:16 am

Thank you


8 people like this
Posted by julie armitano
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2016 at 10:29 am

That is great new.
I love the theater a lot.
Thank you.
My mom and I like the theater a lot.


8 people like this
Posted by epa resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2016 at 11:12 am

i am delighted. i love this theater. i don't understand why it needs to be upgraded, probably some code issue...but it's clean, comfortable, and shows the best movies around -- with ample parking too. yeah!


9 people like this
Posted by Love CineArts
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2016 at 11:15 am

Love CineArts is a registered user.

Recently we viewed a film that was part of the Jewish Film Festival there. Well worth seeing, that one. I thank CineArts for making the venue available for that.

CineArts is our go-to theater for spontaneous date nights. So many other theaters require reservations now. My daughter complains that it's hard to get six seats together in popular movies spontaneously these days. Requiring reservations is not a good way to promote movies to busy people. A movie is the one guilty pleasure we didn't have to PLAN before. I love that we can just pop in to CineArts. Keep it up, please!!!!

Use it or lose it, friends. Great action on the petition. Now patronize this valued resource.


9 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Marie is a registered user.

It is funny how the theatre changed its mind when Hudson-Pacific realized that under the current zoning, this space canonly be used for movie theatres and that the two previous attempts to use it for something else (1996 and 2001) failed. Were they simply ignorant of the past or hoping Palo Alto had forgotten? They weren't too far off as the first response of the planning department was they had no control over the use of the space other than it had to be retail. Upon inquiries to the council from private citizens and Palo Alto Weekly, the city staff researched the issue and found that in 1996 and 2001, the city had stated it could only be used as a theatre and communicated that history to Hudson-Pacific.

This also makes it highly unlikely that it was Cinemark's decision alone to leave - more than likely it was in response to the new lease terms proposed by Hudson-Pacific. I hope Hudson-Pacific will offer terms so that Cinemark will again sign a longterm lease.

I'm sure the petition (which I signed) was instrumental in getting the city council to pay more attention to this issue, and research the situation. It is my opinion, that if the zoning had not restricted the use, the petition would have had no impact. It is so important that we remember these issues and remind the city of past situations, as the planning department cannot be relied upon to do so on their own.


5 people like this
Posted by Juan Olive
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2016 at 12:06 pm

I remember seeing Star Trek "Search for Spock" there and we have all grown up since. Theatre is great little gem.
Any ideas on what I can do to help? I have no clue.
Good Job everyone who voiced their opinion in one form or another. Now let's see what step 2 will be.


1 person likes this
Posted by Maurice druzin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm

What can we do individually to keep these open ?
I have signed the petition, but would like to know if there is anything else that would help


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2016 at 3:18 pm

I'd like to see some reporting done on what is the deal with the existence of
this theater. Was a theater a condition of building Palo Alto Sqaure, and if so
in whatever way I want to see the City mercilessly, if necessary, enforce that
provision for the City residents. The same with the grocery store at the old
Fresh Market ... our city needs to start getting assertive with developers and
pushy FOR the residents.


2 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Marie is a registered user.

To CrescentParkAnon:

The Palo Alto Weekly did a very thorough article on the various issues and history of the Palo Alto Square theatres on July 27:

Web Link

Please read it to come up to speed. My guess is that Hudson-Pacific realized there was not much point in disputing the city's position at the current time, especially with the petition and all the publicity. Twice (1996 and 2001) before Paltried to close it and twice they failed.

To keep it open, we need to remember our history and remind the city when they forget. Per the article above, it seems clear the theatres were permitted only for a theatre and require a zoning change for anything else. Anytime Palo Alto Square management tries a different use, we need to assure the city council that most residents do not support changing that use.

I'm sure the theatres can be profitable at a rent much lower than office space - which is the true value of that space. I hope Hudson Pacific realizes that some profit is better than none, and they don't need the bad publicity of trying to change the original agreement that allowed Palo Alto Square to be built, under Planned Community zoning, which did not conform to any other zoning then or now.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 4, 2016 at 5:12 pm

I think the upgrades are related to the coming competition from the upcoming luxury theaters at San Antonio.


6 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2016 at 9:22 pm

"What can we do individually to keep these open ?
I have signed the petition, but would like to know if there is anything else that would help "

Uh, be a frequent customer. It's the only way you're going to keep it open.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Marie, read it and it is not definitive, which was what I was looking for.
I think maybe you read a bit more into it than is actually there, and most
of the verbiage is on the order or "we believe" or some such.

If you have some kind of solid interpretation of this, let's hear it, but it
sounds like whatever you say there are contradictions in the story you
cited.

It also sounded like in the 60's the city wanted there to be other
"commercial or cultural amenities" and only the theater happend, which
is in line with my unhappily cynical view of how our City has managed
things - ie not in the resident's interest.


3 people like this
Posted by Hopenchange
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 5, 2016 at 7:04 am

Stores that I miss having around

Roger Reynolds (Atherton)
Webb Ranch
Spirals
University Art (in Palo Alto)
Stacey's Bookstore
Plowshare Bookstore
Shirley Cobb Bookstore
Chimera Bookstore
Crown Books
Varsity Theater
Park Theater
Mel's Bowling
Eyerly's Hardware
Beltramo's
East West Bookstore (MP)
Wiedeman's Men's Clothing


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:10 am

There are several points that I wish we knew the answers to.

What sort of upgrades are the owners saying the theater needs? Are these necessary or more of a wish list?

What are attendance numbers like? Are they declining or still at levels comparable to last year, five years ago, etc.?

With only two separate theaters, what criteria do they use to choose their movies and why are some shown for a much longer run than others. From the public's perspective, if a movie has a long run it is generally because people are still coming to see the movie so it is profitable to keep showing until numbers drop. Is this a fair judgment?


1 person likes this
Posted by Homer
a resident of University South
on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:25 am

Good news!


1 person likes this
Posted by PA newbie
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:27 am

Love the character of the theater. Great effort to save it - thanks!


1 person likes this
Posted by Eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2016 at 9:34 am

Eileen is a registered user.

Thanks for the city and everyone who signed the petition. My husband and I love walking from our home in College Terrace to watch movies at this small theatre. Its a gem!


2 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 5, 2016 at 11:45 am

"It's the only large-seating-capacity..." That was a choice by the Aquarius to reduce its seating by replacing its seats with double beds. I would have greatly appreciated this as a teenager on a date, and I assume homeless people are happy with the new arrangements. However, being selfish, I have my own bed at home to use and would prefer more seats.


Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2016 at 2:21 pm

"and if so in whatever way I want to see the City mercilessly, if necessary, enforce that provision for the City residents. "

Nice. I hope that if you ever do one single thing that we would consider out of line for the city, we "mercilessly" enforce that as well.

[Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Chrisc
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Thank you Karen ! As for competition from luxury theaters, some of us are really sick of Palo Alto "luxury, " and the accompanying prices.


Like this comment
Posted by Alan & Donna
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2016 at 11:05 pm

We also are dismayed at the prospect of the closing. Can someone respond to the above questions about how to sign the petition?jJ


Like this comment
Posted by Janelle
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2017 at 4:40 pm

I know its not likely, but those tall buildings next door always worried me if an earthquake happened...yikes! Otherwise, I love this theater, go often!

Janelle M.


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2017 at 12:05 am

Seems irrational to worry about adjacent buildings falling over in an earthquake
while watching a movie.

They decided to leave the Palo Alto Square open, but they are sabotaging it by
doing the same thing they did before ... keeping the same movies without changing
and rotating them quickly enough.

I don't know why they do this, but I love that theater and would love to go to it
more often, except that the movies rarely change.


1 person likes this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Just there last night to see Lion; which was really good btw.
Went to the 7pm showing with just a moderate number of folks, maybe 1/5 of possible seats filled. Come on folks we need to support these theaters or they will be closed. These days they are my 'go to' choice and sometimes I go even if it overly interested in the movie just to support the location.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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