New deal to keep CinéArts Theatre open for two years | News | Palo Alto Online |


New deal to keep CinéArts Theatre open for two years

Negotiations between Palo Alto Square property owner and theater company succeed in keeping popular theater operating

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.

Related content:

Talks underway to preserve Palo Alto Square theater

Palo Alto Square theater to remain open -- for now


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11 people like this
Posted by Bike commuter
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 15, 2016 at 10:03 am

Great news!
We love bicycling to our neighborhood theatre.

Let's all go to the movies...

13 people like this
Posted by Julie armitano
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 15, 2016 at 10:26 am

That is wonderful news.
Thank you.

13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2016 at 10:38 am

This is indeed good news.

Thank you to those involved.

6 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on Sep 15, 2016 at 10:39 am

So what do we need to do to make sure they stay? Actually go to the theater?

7 people like this
Posted by Movie maven
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

Yay! Now it's up to us!

8 people like this
Posted by Trish
a resident of Woodside
on Sep 15, 2016 at 11:04 am

This made my day!!!!

3 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2016 at 11:09 am

I'd be very interested if the attendance increases or in 2 months, there are still showings that have only a couple of customers.

In 2 years what do people think is going to happen?


12 people like this
Posted by Kathy Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 11:33 am





1 person likes this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 15, 2016 at 11:34 am

In 2 years, the new theatre at San Antonio swill open and most of the remaining market for Palo Alto Square will go away.

11 people like this
Posted by Relieved
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2016 at 12:50 pm

Relieved is a registered user.

This is one of the few theatres that has seats comfortable enough for me to sit for two or three hours. I have severe rheumatoid arthritis, so it's Cine-Arts or stay home and stream movies.

6 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Love this theater, emailed the company and signed the petition to keep
it open. During the time in question I have watched two movies only,
because their selection is limited and does not change very often.

Two years will go by like the snapping of fingers. I don't know why but a
lot of the very popular movies that I would be more likely to see go to
the Guild Theater which I will not set foot it because it is so filthy and
uncomfortable. Finally when it has been at the Guild for weeks
sometimes then it goes to another theater where I might then decide
to see it.

If they don't want to keep this theater going they merely have to keep
managing the content the way they have been. Be warned, this is a
small compromise by the company that will allow them to delay making
an unpopular decision. I hope the City did not give away their option
to keep a theater in that location or make the zoning less strict.

I'd like to see this theater stay open, and stay open past merely two
years, but realistically that will not happen under this current circumstance
unless they want it to happen and provide new movies that people want
to see.

Let's hope for the best. Thanks for fighting for this theater.

6 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 1:05 pm

"Relieved", the Century Shoreline theaters and the Aquarius theaters have big reclining easy-chair seats now that are padded and quite comfortable. I don't like the theaters as much, or the crowds, but they are very comfortable.

5 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Before the council ever gives permission for another use for these theatres, the managers need to show actual financials. If they insist on rent equivalent to office space, they will never be profitable. As long as income exceeds expenses, not counting rent or administrative overhead, the theatres should continue. Their benefit is all the extra office space they were able to build. They are making a huge profit based on the upzoning.

These theatres were permitted as part of a planned community upzoning long ago (70/s??), which gave developers permission to vastly exceed existing zoning and to build the tall office buildings at Palo Alto Square. The theatres as far as I know, are the only benefit left, even if they weren't explicitly labeled as benefits. The YMCA gym in the basement was closed and not replaced as far as I know.

If they try to eliminate this benefit, they should be sued. Don't get taken in that Hudson Pacific is doing this to keep the public happy. They are doing this because of penalties they would face for not complying with the one public benefit they provided as part of their planned community zoning.

8 people like this
Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Great news :-)

Thank you to Hudson Pacific and Cinemark for this extension, and thank you so much to City Manager Keene and your staff for orchestrating this agreement, which would not have happened without this urgent effort by City Hall!

And to Council members Karen Holman, Liz Kniss and Tom DuBois who worked with the City Manager to bring the parties together.

And to the community members who led the grass roots campaign - Arthur Keller, Winter Dellenbach, Lydia Kou, Lynette Skelton, and at least 2500 other Palo Altans who signed and spread Arthur's petition.


6 people like this
Posted by juan olive
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Great News.
If management is reading this, then please let me say one of the obvious reasons why I don't think you get much traffic is because of location. The building it's in looks like an office building and while driving by on El Camino, if you blink, you may very well miss it.
What I have in mind is something colorful, but not too colorful. Look at the Shoreline sign/logo and that, I think would really help a lot.
I plan to see as many movies as I can there.

2 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Thank you to everyone who got involved to keep our movie theater open.

8 people like this
Posted by A Yogiini
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2016 at 2:25 pm

I drive down from Foster City because CineArts in Burlingame closed several years ago and now there are no art theaters in our area. Often Palo Alto theaters (PA Square, Aquarius, etc.) have better offerings in terms of independent films, art films, etc. It is true that the PA Square theater needs some upgrading but its still in better shape than some of the Landmark theaters and the popcorn is better too.

It is frustrating when each cineplex in every town is showing the same commercial, popular releases causing me to have to choose to either go up to SF of down to PA to see something that at least sounds interesting and worth the time and effort.

Also, I agree with Marie. Land developers made deals with the city councils to provide certain benefits to the community and it sounds as if this theater was included as such. We are facing the same thing in San Mateo with the closing of the ice rink in Bridgepointe Center. In order to have permission to build the center the ice rink was the community benefit inclusion. With the closing of the rink in San Carlos, and now this, where are the future olympic skaters going to practice?

The desire to close this theater is just the tip of the iceberg of what is to come all over the bay area.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2016 at 2:51 pm

I agree with some of the comments above. Yes, I am pleased that the two years' extra time is good news, but I am wary of celebrating too quickly. I wonder if this was all part of the plan. I wonder if they will just keep a few movies that run for months and allow the facility to look shabby to prove their points.

I think we do need to use this theater but I think we should keep proactive in watching what they do. A few emails complaining about the length of time a particular movie runs and if we notice anything that looks like they are not keeping the facilities up to standard just may make a notice. As with the YMCA gym, the ulterior motive may yet appear and if we are not alert, we may miss a clue as to what their real agenda may happen to be.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

4 people like this
Posted by Atrocious
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Atrocious is a registered user.

The CineArts Theatre plays Indie films. They are another level above the usual Hollywood light fare.

The theatres at San Antonio will play the standard Hollywood fluff that's here today and gone tomorrow. Is this even necessary with the Shoreline Theatres to the east??

7 people like this
Posted by Lynn
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 15, 2016 at 3:29 pm

I wonder if it would be possible, as a Community Service, for the Palo Alto Weekly to create a "familiar" little framed box, always in the same place on or near the movie page, that contains the current films & times at the cinearts theater (and perhaps also the Aquarius info, to be fair), just to keep the info "in front of us" as a weekly reminder of our commitment.

2 people like this
Posted by MB Phillips
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2016 at 3:31 pm

I like the PA Square the way it is, but they could save on costs by opening only in the evenings on weekdays, instead of midday. I'd miss the matinees, but not as much as missing the theater if it goes. I hate those megaplex theaters! Why must we go to Mtn. View? I remember when there were about 10 movie houses in PA-MP.

This place is a big community benefit (opera showings, film festivals, indie & foreign movies) that would be sadly missed. Let's all try to commit to attending every few weeks, at least (or more if they change the bill more more often).

Thanks to PA city officials for getting involved!

2 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Great news! A million thanks to the city officials and community activists (especially Arthur Keller) who pulled this off.

Like this comment
Posted by Lucy Murray
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Wonderful news! So glad everyone got involved and made this happen.

2 people like this
Posted by moviegoer
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 6:09 pm

moviegoer is a registered user.

Wonderful, marvelous, I couldn't agree more with everyone who's posted so happily here.
Thanks to Cinearts, Hudson Pacific, and city manager Keene for all their efforts on this.
Seeing "Florence Foster Jenkins" and almost falling out of my chair with laughter reminded me what a treasure this theatre is.

2 people like this
Posted by Max
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2016 at 8:46 am

When I arrived in the Bay Area in 1999, I was appalled by the poor quality of the theaters and their programming. It did not improve much over the years and only recently did the Aquarius upgraded nicely.
To my point, the Square for us from another community but working in Palo Alto, is mostly invisible...
In America, the land of advertising, the theaters are terrible advertisers!

Conclusion: I am extremely happy to hear the good news and I will make sure to include their listings in my bookmarks. But please, do 3 things: Improve your programming, improve your advertising, improve your lobby services.

Like this comment
Posted by Winter
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 8:53 am

Add my thanks to Hudson and Cine arts/Cinemax for coming to this agreement.
And thanks to Hillary and Jim who persevered. Often government and community efforts move slow but here they moved fast with good results. Well done everyone, including all the petition signers.
I am so happy about this that I will actually buy something at the concession counter the next time I go to movies.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:45 pm

While the demographics for the 10-screen luxury theater at San Antonio may not completely overlap with Palo Alto Square,
It is extremely naive to think that it will not have a significant impact on the economist of PAS. Extending this deal beyond 2 years will present greater challenges. If PA wants to keep this theater going, it is going to have to do some heavy lifting.

For example, the other ShowPlace ICONs show a heavy schedule of opera performances.

3 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:54 pm

Tonight I saw Oliver Stone's docu-movie Snowden at CineArts Palo Alto Square.
It was a good movie, slow, but well-balanced. If you are going to support this
theater this is a good movie to lead with. Sadly it has the same deficiency as
CitzenFour, namely there is a lot to the Snowden revelations, and this movie
does little to really explain them, even less than CitzenFour, which was just
dreadfully interminable even though it did reveal the gist of what Snowden
was saying..

Like this comment
Posted by Jean
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 17, 2016 at 7:08 am

So, so happy that the theatre has gotten a reprieve! Now, we must do our part in making it a more profitable enterprise!

Like this comment
Posted by GS
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2016 at 4:55 pm

I wonder if someone from the City could confirm the specifics for the obligations that the Palo Alto Square develops agreed to at the time that they were issued their permits. I seem to remember, as others have hinted, that they were obligated to maintain that space as a theater or a that least that there were restrictions on the future use of that space.

3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Shucks ... I go to the CineArts at the Palo Alto Square every chance I get.
I love this small quiet theater where the civilized moviegoer to enjoy a mature
movie .... BUT, if they were going to give it a 2 year extension ... they did not say
they'd be running the same movies for those 2 years!

Come on CineArts, shake it up, are you deliberately trying to fail or what?
The movies never change in this theater, or very rarely. How often do you expect
customers to keep seeing the same movie just to keep you going?

Get with it, there are plenty of new movies coming. Let's have a bit more choice
of the movies here so we can keep this unique movie theater treasure, please!

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