The fate has been sealed for the Regal UA Berkeley, the final commercial movie theater in downtown Berkeley.
Regal Cinemas’ parent company, Cineworld, is closing the theater at 2274 Shattuck Ave. and 38 other movie theaters across the country as part of the chain’s bankruptcy proceedings. Cineworld will reject the theaters’ leases beginning Feb. 15, Business Insider reported Thursday.
The Berkeley Regal theater’s future had already been in jeopardy. A developer pitched a project this summer to demolish the structure that’s home to the 90-year-old theater and build a 17-story apartment complex on the site. The developer’s plans would preserve the theater’s art deco United Artists facade.
Berkeleyside’s requests for comment from Regal Cinemas, the chain that operates the theater and the Berkeley location, were not returned. A concession worker inside the theater said she hadn’t heard anything about a closure date.
Downtown once boasted a half-dozen movie theaters, three of which — the UA and Landmark Theatres’ Shattuck Cinemas and California Theatre — were still operating at the start of 2020. Since the pandemic, theaters have struggled to draw customers. Landmark announced last fall that it was permanently closing the California, then shut down the Shattuck in May.
Read more about the history of the theater in the Berkeley Daily Planet
“When I first arrived in Berkeley, there were between 20 and 30 screens, and the place was a movie haven,” said Dale Sophiea, who started working at Regal UA Berkeley in 1978 as an usher and later as a manager until 1984. “There were all kinds of movies, from the biggest blockbusters to the artiest art films, and now there’s nothing … it’s just tragic.”
The theater, which opened in 1932, cost $300,000 to build and had one screen and an original capacity of around 1,800.
Sophiea, who worked in theaters throughout most of his career, said the closure of yet another movie theater means one fewer affordable entertainment option for the Berkeley community.
“There are some movies that you can watch on your television or your computer screen, and there are other movies that can only be seen properly on a big screen and ideally with other people enjoying the experience,” Sophiea said.
Once Regal UA Berkeley shutters, Rialto Cinemas Elmwood will become the last movie theater showing new releases in Berkeley. The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive also frequently holds screenings, though its offerings lean more toward historical films and arthouse fare.
This story has been updated after publication with additional information.
Berkeleyside visual journalist Ximena Natera documented the art deco interior of the Regal UA Berkeley theater last August:
Berkeleyside managing editor Zac Farber contributed reporting to this story.