Film lovers will be able to catch movies at Palo Alto's popular CinéArts theater for the next two years, thanks to a new deal between the theater's parent company and the property owner of Palo Alto Square, the city announced Thursday morning.
In a breakthrough development that will avert the expected closure of the centrally located arthouse theater, Hudson Pacific and Cinemark have reached an agreement that will keep the screens on into 2018. Under the terms, Hudson Pacific has agreed to make several improvements to the building, which were requested by Cinemark.
In addition, Hudson Pacific plans to upgrade landscaping, amenities and other aesthetics of the Palo Alto Square development, which according to the city will "not only benefit existing occupants but also theater patrons."
The new deal came at the urging of the City Council and the community, which responded to news of the theater's imminent closure in late July with a widely circulated petition calling for the theater to stay. Council members, who were in the midst of their summer recess, reached out to both parties in late July and early August in hopes of achieving a new agreement.
The decision to close the theater was made by Cinemark, the Texas-based theater chain. The company's spokesman, James Meredith, told the Weekly in late July that the market for movies has changed and the theater "has gotten older" and requires substantial investment.
City Manager James Keene lauded the news of the new agreement, calling it a "reprieve" for the Palo Alto theater.
"Hudson Pacific and CinéArts are to be congratulated for coming together for the good of our community," Keene said in a statement. "We had hoped for a longer-term lease extension at this time. But the theatre will remain open and ultimately the economics of the theatre's operation will determine whether CinéArts will remain in this location."
"To see a longer lease extension in the future, our community will need to actively support the theatre," Keene added.
Though the deal ensures that the theater will operate until fall 2018, the long-term future of CinéArts -- which is one of Palo Alto's two first-run theaters -- remains very much in doubt.
Drew Gordon, senior vice president of Hudson Pacific, said in a statement that the company appreciates "the cooperation and goodwill by everyone involved to make this happen for Palo Alto."
"The next two years are a window of opportunity to determine whether the theater can operate in Palo Alto Square for the long term," he said.
The terms of the agreement between Hudson Pacific and Cinemark weren't immediately clear. Claudia Keith, Palo Alto's chief communications officer, said the specifics about theater improvements are “part of a confidential agreement” between the two companies. When reached for comment, Hudson officials declined to release any information about the improvements they are planning to make to the site.
Cinemark didn't immediately return a request for comment. But Tom Owens, the company's executive vice president for real estate, released a statement in which he applauded the efforts of the city and Hudson Pacific in enabling the theater's continual operation.
“We believe the theatre can stay in Palo Alto with the community's full support, and we look forward to the opportunity to serve Palo Alto and the surrounding region,” Owens said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Hudson Pacific is moving ahead with other improvements to Palo Alto Square, a prominent commercial development located at the central intersection of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road. Plans submitted last spring show that the company plans to modify two of the six buildings in the development, which includes improvements to their respective lobby entrances. The plans don't show any proposed changes to the theater.