Shattuck Cinemas is closing, as downtown loses another movie theater

Downtown Berkeley, which once boasted a half-dozen movie theaters, will soon be down to one.

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

Shattuck Cinemas will close for good this month, in a blow to cinema lovers that leaves downtown Berkeley with just one movie theater.

There are conflicting reports about why the theater is closing and how long fans of the 10-screen multiplex have to catch one last showing.

Two theater employees told Berkeleyside that its final day in business will be Tuesday, May 24, while Margot Gerber, a spokeswoman for operator Landmark Theatres, said the Shattuck will stay open through the end of the month. The theater’s website does not list any showings beyond Tuesday.

Gerber wrote in an email that the Shattuck is closing because “our landlord is moving forward with redevelopment of the property,” referring to a project proposed at 2065 Kittredge St. that would demolish its theaters.

Tommy Sinnott, director of investments for CA Ventures, the Chicago-based development firm that owns the site, gave a different explanation, writing in a text message that the project was “absolutely not” to blame for the theater’s closure, and that Landmark “did not express interest to renew” its lease. The 2065 Kittredge St. project has not yet cleared the city approval process and is set to go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission in June.

The Shattuck opened in 1988 on the ground floor of the Shattuck Hotel complex and developed a reputation over its more than three decades as a home for independent and critically acclaimed films. Landmark, a West Hollywood-based chain, has operated the Shattuck since 1994, the same year it took over the California Theatre around the corner on Kittredge Street.

Two decades ago, the Shattuck and the California were among a half-dozen movie theaters spread around downtown Berkeley; by next month, only the United Artists theater at 2274 Shattuck Ave., owned by the Regal chain, will remain.

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

Demonstrators at a 2015 “Save Shattuck Cinemas” protest oppose a planned apartment complex at 2211 Harold Way that would demolish the theater. The project was approved, but never broke ground. Credit: Melati Citrawireja

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

After opponents protested a previous plan to build an 18-story high-rise at 2211 Harold Way with a “Save Shattuck Cinemas” campaign, the project’s owners agreed to replace the Shattuck by building a new 10-screen theater within the development. That agreement ultimately helped kill the project, its representatives said, by adding to construction costs.

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

Nico Savidge is Berkeleyside's senior reporter covering city hall. Email: nico@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: NSavidge.