Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinemas is closing next week

Shattuck Cinemas, which opened in 1988, developed a solid reputation as the home of independent and critically acclaimed films. Credit: Nico Savidge

The Shattuck theaters will be closing forever this month, a hit for movie lovers leaving downtown Berkeley with just one theater.

There are conflicting reports as to why the theater is closing and how long fans of the 10-screen multiplex have to catch a final performance.

Two theater employees told Berkeleyside the last day of business will be Tuesday, May 24, while Margot Gerber, a spokeswoman for operator Landmark Theaters, said the Shattuck will remain open through the end of the month. The theater’s website does not list any performances after Tuesday.

Gerber wrote in an email that the Shattuck is closing because “our landlord is pursuing redevelopment of the property,” referring to a project proposed at 2065 Kittredge Street whose theaters would be demolished.

Tommy Sinnott, director of investments at CA Ventures, the Chicago-based development company that owns the site, offered a different explanation, writing in a text message that the project was “absolutely not” responsible for the theater’s closure and that Landmark ” not interested in renewing his lease. The 2065 Kittredge St. project is pending city approval and is scheduled to be submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in June.

Opened in 1988 on the first floor of the Shattuck Hotel complex, The Shattuck has established a reputation as the home of independent and critically acclaimed films for more than three decades. Landmark, a West Hollywood chain, has operated The Shattuck since 1994, the same year it acquired the California Theater around the corner on Kittredge Street.

Two decades ago, the Shattuck and the California were part of a half-dozen movie theaters dotted around downtown Berkeley; By next month, only the United Artists Theater on Shattuck Ave. 2274 remain, owned by the Regal chain.

COVID-19 and the rise of streaming services have hit Landmark and other theater operators hard. The company closed the California Theater permanently last fall, saying the building’s owners refused to renew the lease, and Deadline reported last week that the chain was closing its “flagship” theater in Los Angeles. California Theater owners have said Landmark stopped paying rent just before the pandemic began.

Demonstrators at a Save Shattuck Cinemas protest in 2015 opposed a proposed apartment complex at 2211 Harold Way that would demolish the theater. The project was approved but never laid. Photo credit: Melati Citrawireja

For the past decade, the Shattuck has been drawn into the battle over proposals to build apartments on its downtown Berkeley block. While the multiplex’s marquee and entrance are on Shattuck Avenue, its theaters are part of a lot on the west side of the block bounded by Harold Way, Allston Way, and Kittredge Streets that developers have long wanted to demolish for new housing.

After opponents protested an earlier plan to build an 18-story high-rise at 2211 Harold Way with a Save Shattuck Cinemas campaign, the project’s owners agreed to save Shattuck by building a new 10-screen theater within the development substitute. That agreement ultimately helped kill the project, their officials said, by increasing construction costs.

CA Ventures’ eight-story project, which includes nearly 200 apartments, does not include plans to replace the theater.

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