Talks underway to preserve Palo Alto Square theater

Hudson Pacific and Cinemark extend lease for CineArts by 30 days

The movie theater CineArts will remain at Palo Alto Square until at least mid-September, thanks to a 30-day lease extension that was recently signed by the theater's parent company and the building owner, Palo Alto City Manager James Keene said Monday.

The popular theater was set to close this week after the Texas-based theater company Cinemark decided not to renew its lease with Hudson Pacific Property, owner of Palo Alto Square. A spokesman for Cinemark told the Weekly in late July that the company decided that the theater required an expensive update, which was deemed cost prohibitive.

The announcement of the theater's imminent closure prompted an online petition, signed by more than 2,500 residents, urging the two companies to keep CineArts operating without interruption. City officials and council members, who were in the midst of their summer break, also became involved in the preservation effort, with Councilwomen Liz Kniss and Karen Holman reaching out to Hudson Pacific and CineArts just after the news of the theater's closure broke in late July.

On Aug. 2, the city sent each company a letter, signed by Mayor Pat Burt, offering to convene a group discussion on hopes of keeping its theater in Palo Alto open. The letter sent to Drew Gordon, vice president of Hudson Pacific, referred to a meeting the prior week in which company and city officials agreed that their priority was "to keep CineArts theater at Palo Alto Square," and in which Hudson reportedly "committed to reach out to CineArts to see if anything can be done to incentivize them to stay in Palo Alto."

The letter also refers to conversations that Councilman Tom DuBois had with several executives at CineArts, who reportedly expressed that "they are a community oriented organization and have an interest in remaining in Palo Alto."

A separate letter, sent to CineArts, offered to convene a meeting "to discuss your reasons and see if there is anything we can do to maintain your presence in our community."

The letter refers to the theater as "an important cultural amenity in Palo Alto" and proposes a conversation as soon as possible about keeping the theater open and operating.

Though the theater's long-term future remains murky, Keene said Monday that the two companies have signed an agreement through Sept. 15. The extension would give them time to negotiate the needed tenant improvements and possibly come up with a longer lease to keep the theater in its location, he said.

Keene noted that because the theater was included in the original development plan for Palo Alto Square, no other use of that building would be permitted without a zone change, which would have to be approved by the City Council. However, because the theater is not listed as a "public benefit" (a zoning concept that didn't exist in 1969, when Palo Alto Square was approved as part of a "planned-community" application), the absence of a theater would not constitute a zoning violation. Thus, code enforcement would not be an option if the theater were to close, Keene said.


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7 people like this
Posted by Julie armitano
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 17, 2016 at 10:31 am

Thank you.
My mom and I like the theater a lot.

7 people like this
Posted by Movie Maven
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2016 at 10:55 am

My husband and I frequently drive from Redwood City because of the excellent programming at this theater. It's a nice change from the movieplexes and I've never felt that it was in disrepair. A real loss for serious moviegoers. QBqzT

13 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 17, 2016 at 10:57 am

What a nice surprise ... a good start.
Please City of Palo Alto, follow through and keep this great theater open!
Thank you.

13 people like this
Posted by juan olive
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:02 am

I can't believe it. Usually developers win. What else can we all do to help cross the finish line and save the theatre?
Good Job to all of you who either wrote, spoke up or did something to save it.

9 people like this
Posted by Alyda
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:04 am

My husband and I frequent the PA Square movies almost exclusively. We also drive from Redwood City and appreciate the quality films plus pleasant environment of the theater.

8 people like this
Posted by Mike Morganstern
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:40 am

I do love this theater and hope it can be saved.

But please do report on what exactly the improvements needed, and what laws (city, county,state, federal) demand the improvement.

11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:56 am

Yes, we love the theater too.

I have never found any detail of the list of "improvements" needed.

Please can a reporter let us know these details.

9 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2016 at 11:57 am

I'm with Mike Morgenstern. It would be nice to know what improvements are required. Frankly, the theater looks fine to me.

3 people like this
Posted by Jean
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Love the films and when they have the Metropolitan Operas it is such a privilege to see them and up so close.
We usually like to go there, and the parking is so easy.
Long ago, theaters in Los altos and Mountain view closed. We do not want to lose this one.
It is hard to find good films that are not violent or for little kids.
So, lets keep it open. We dont need an upgrade, just good films.

7 people like this
Posted by Julia B
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 17, 2016 at 3:22 pm

I love that theater and go there because I love the movies they show. Recently the Aquarius and Century 21 on Shoreline have been remodeled and it is NOT for the better! I hate those new seats and having to have an assigned seat. It's not an improvement. If I want a barcalounger, I can stay home and watch on demand movies. I like the old fashioned seats.And they can fit more people in the theater that way.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 17, 2016 at 8:48 pm

I'm with Julia B. I hate those barcalounger seats too, with a passion. Quite uncomfortable. And I dislike being forced to buy an assigned seat in advance, This does not prevent people from insisting that the seat I've been assigned is actually theirs, very unpleasant, tickets being waved around...

Palo Alto Square does not have freezing AC, as Shoreline often does. The volume is rarely turned up too high, and they respond quickly if it is. I particularly like the larger of the two theaters -- such a feeling of watching the movie as a community.

And, as others have mentioned, the movies shown are well selected. Parking is never a problem. Dinner before or after at the Fish Market -- a fine evening in Palo Alto.

All fingers crossed that the theater will stay with us.

Like this comment
Posted by Linda B
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 17, 2016 at 10:38 pm

This is very encouraging!!! We really hope long term plans can be made for the theatre to stay and with the kinds of excellent offerings it has had, which may not be available at the other nearby theatres.

We prefer the Cinearts for its location (which allows us to go to films more often as well as more easily, with less stress and less driving at the end of a long day and we age ) and the wonderful films, the comfortable seats and easy parking, etc And for the wonderful SF Jewish Film Fest which offers good films for all. The vast majority of our film going all year is at Cinearts.

My only wish would be for there to be more snacks we would enjoy and purchase, in particular high quality dark chocolate (because it's healthier - simple ingredients yet lower sugar yet yummy - worth some calories!). Maybe selling snacks that are more desirable would help the thatre's bottom line?

Thanks so much to all who are helping to retain this valuable community resource!

2 people like this
Posted by Lori
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2016 at 2:02 am

I love this location and the fine Indie films that are offered here. I was devastated to hear that we were about to lose this theatre. It's a very comfortable and attractive theatre, I can't imagine what kind of work needs to be done here. It's perfect as it is!

This is the only recommendation that I have: I do think that if you were to sell much healthier snacks and drinks, your health conscious movie goers would be more apt to purchase those items. That is the only improvement I would like to see. But,even that I can live without, as long as the movie theatre remains with it's wonderful selection of films.

I frequent this movie house alot, because it is one of my favorites! You show the kind of movies that I want to see. I am very happy with this theatre ... it is one of Northern Santa Clara County's famous treasures. And, it serves 11 nearby communities: Redwood City, Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, East Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Woodside, and Sunnyvale.

It's easily accessible with good parking facilities and lighting. It's centally located beside major thoroughfares,with some wonderful restaurants nearby. The theatre is very comfortable for all, and it has great access for handicapped individuals. It's a dream theatre.

If the theatre company that leases this facility needs to make more money with it ... then rent out the spacious and comfortable auditorium during the weekday mornings and early afternoons to the many companies that may need a special place, such as this, to hold their promotional meetings and presentations. This theatre can do double duty.

It really has a wonderful auditorium. And,I love the weeklong film festivals that are held there,too. Those events are very successful and well-attended.

What can I say ... we just love our Palo Alto Square Theatre! Don't take that away from us!

Like this comment
Posted by Max Bouchard
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2016 at 10:44 am

Could Cinearts give us an idea of the estimated cost involved here?
A fundraising effort may be in order, my 2 cents!

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

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