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Legal battle looms over plan to convert former CinéArts theater to offices

Original post made on May 26, 2023

The owner of the Palo Alto Square business park is heading for a legal showdown with the city over its plan to convert the movie theater that once housed CinéArts into an office building.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 26, 2023, 8:01 PM

Comments (15)

Posted by Comment
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2023 at 10:59 pm

Comment is a registered user.

Good for the City. It is right on this and should stick with it. The developer built a film theater as part of the original plan approved by the City. Yet now Hudson tries to subvert that, to offer nothing of value, only more offices - the last thing needed or wanted under the new paradigm of remote workers.

A film venue, on the other hand, is a high value cultural and entertainment resource to our community that is worth fighting for.

The New York Times just ran a long piece on why film theaters continue to be viable despite streaming as and TV.

We live in a highly educated area where residents not only want to watch sports, but also go to the opera, to live theater and see good films and festivals as were until recently, enjoyed at Palo Alto Square Theater. We must not allow this venue to be destroyed for the sake of redundant office space.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2023 at 11:16 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

" Repeated fights to keep theater open

Hudson's new plan is just the latest in a series of attempts by the property owner to get rid of the movie theater."

How many times do we have to fight the same battles?? Just say no.

It's not like we need more office space with some many offices vacant or that we need to make the jobs/housing imbalance even worse.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2023 at 7:24 am

Bystander is a registered user.

CineArts had a problem, it couldn't bring in the sort of movies and change them often enough to suit its patrons.

Showing the same movie, no matter how good, over and over was never going to solve its problems. Don't blame the pandemic, blame the powers that be who couldn't see the gem it was failing to utilize.


Posted by Ryan Briscoe
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 27, 2023 at 10:31 am

Ryan Briscoe is a registered user.

We enjoyed going to Cine Arts when it was a movie theater but times change.

The landlord has a right to generate income from his properties and wants to remodel the now vacant facility to provide more office space.

What is wrong with that?

Maybe the City of Palo Alto should consider leading the building for its own film presentations and stage events. The money to do so is already in the coffers.


Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2023 at 11:33 am

ALB is a registered user.

Please planning department and city council stand firm on this pushback as we need CinéArts in our community.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2023 at 12:02 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

The last i could tell a third of Palo Alto Square office space was empty “for lease”. PA has very little for its cultural value. Cine Arts was (is) a cultural outlet. The currently empty site is among many in PA, including commercial properties constructed during the Pandemic. Now PA Square is fallow, empty, hollow of human activity. Stanford Theater closed! Where in Palo Alto can we access our International cultural heritage in film? Everything is shuttered . Even the Palo Alto square is a veritable ghost park . BofA closed! It’s nearly a town of un-habitable commerce and what, and for who? Where are our grown ups going for entertainment, art? Stanford? Redwood City? Menlo Park? Mountain View? It appears large corps and SFH owners in PA win the day. Hiding, cloistering behind private ownership of their hallowed
kingdoms . Where is the shared community of shared artistic expression, freedom? Why is this even an issue? The Pandemic has justified too many “no’s” and the excuse for shutting out what may have been viewed by huge commercial property owners as a inconvenience, before is now a way forward.
PA Square has to be getting a massive tax right off for it’s empty
offices... Cine Arts must be one more. Like death or 911, the Pandemic has created a before, after and now. Justifying too many holes in our human fabric to count. What a shame.


Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2023 at 11:24 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

NTTB, Stanford Theatre is not closed, but undergoing renovation. Web Link


Posted by Philomena Johnson
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2023 at 11:56 am

Philomena Johnson is a registered user.

Cine Arts should be preserved providing the theater is profitable.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2023 at 2:20 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@MiramPalm so Stanford Theater is not closed? Yet is “closed” for renovations? Totally perplexed here. Plus ST primarily shows “old” b&w films. I am up w that. However, at the current moment PA has no theater for movies for its population of teens? Per our lane. PA offers nothing of cultural or artistic or younger generation value. No good museum yet. Junior Museum is a cost based entry at 10 years or younger. Art galleries go at the whim of rising rents, the William Sisters Heritage museum caters to International historic kitchen utensils, old toys, radios. The Art Center? Where is our cultural artistic soul in this city? Supposedly there is an art commission. Yet it’s not integrative. I never hear their voice in the mix of all ages, climate, housing, art, community, the residential populous young to old. The city closed its gates when COVID hit and has been gated ever since to in person interaction. I resided in Petaluma in early 2000’s. Where once it had two drive in theaters. A multi plex theater, and two single screen art film theaters —— and then it had none. Yet it still had a downtown post office, hardware store, a gas station, a grocery store, a clock repair shop, Napa Auto Parts and a bakery. Yet here. Here. Where Mountain View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Redwood City support & maintain residential needs, Palo Alto is depriving residents of the basic commerce necessities. Is our city counting on residents crossing city lines to get their residential needs met? Is Palo Alto off loading very simple yet necessary needs of it residents to other town ships? It seems so. Yes. We have UPS stores, Boba Tea, Pizza joints, hair salons a plenty. Yet. Where, where are our towns real resources — the needs met. Los Altos or Menlo Park do not have Big Box stores. Palo Alto has forsaken a physical big box 4 BIG online shopping. Plenty of Amazon Trucks, UPS & other box trucks running around, parking on all days & hours to
4 a BIG e-commerce economy.


Posted by Julie armitano
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 30, 2023 at 10:33 am

Julie armitano is a registered user.

I really do miss the movie theater.
i always went there.
My family loved that movie theater.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2023 at 10:45 am

Bystander is a registered user.

CineArts was a wonderful place to watch foreign films and those with limited appeal. It is a shame that they didn't change their offerings as often as they should so that their patrons could have a wider selection of movies. Stanford theatre does a good job with old b&w movies, but we could have had some of the great movies from the age of color that are still favorites, as well as live broadcasts of events from all over the world.

It is still possible that many of us could be wooed back if the right movies were shown. With Netflix discontinuing its dvd service, many of these old movies from the 60s, 70s and 80s will be almost impossible to find. There is an audience for older movies, foreign movies and arty movies that are not being served.

Please bring the old CineArts back.


Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 25, 2023 at 10:19 am

Rose is a registered user.

Another reason to keep the theater at PA Square is to reduce car emissions. I don't like to drive to Redwood City or Mountain View to see movies. We need our local movie house.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2023 at 7:39 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Yeah, I wish we still had the bowling alley on El Camino Real, too.

Why should we as individuals or the city get to dictate to the owner or leaseholder of the land keep a cinema?
Seems to me this is an individual choice of that business. Nothing wrong with expressing interest in a particular entertainment entity, but why should we be able to dictate to others what to do?

The cinema at ECR and San Antonio - ICON Theatres? (one block down within the complex Village at San Antonio - California Ave?) is certainly nearby enough to Palo Alto.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2023 at 8:43 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Let's convert it to office space. Then, let's level it and make it a parking lot. Then, let's convert the parking lot into housing.

This is what we used to call "make-work". When there was no actual work to be done, we made "samples" or hid in the darkroom making slightly obscene renderings that can only be produced with a vertical camera and a lot of crystalline powder up the nose. Not saying this is like that but, uh, yeah.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 27, 2023 at 8:04 am

Annette is a registered user.

"noting that the text of the ordinance creating the PC district doesn't actually specify . . . "

When I read that I flashed on other land use issues (Hotel President, the lot in Midtown, Castilleja's attempt to call a garage a basement) that appear to hinge on the written word. Whether a typo or vaguely written, writing that is not crisp is vulnerable to interpretation and manipulation. First step: hire a good lawyer. Hudson has done that. If Palo Alto wants to prevail in this dispute, it had better do the same and be prepared to spend b/c developers can write checks for a long time.


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