The past couple years have dealt death blow after death blow to local movie houses, with the pandemic and the rise of streaming largely to blame.
Landmark Theatres, a West Hollywood-based chain, closed down the California Theatre in downtown Berkeley in October 2021. Shattuck Cinemas, also operated by Landmark, shut in May 2022. The Regal UA closed earlier this year. And Rialtos Cinema Elmwood, Berkeley’s last commercial movie house, is struggling — hoping beer and wine will bring in film fans and evaluating its options.
As of this week, there’s now one fewer option for those hoping to see a movie on the big screen.
The Albany Twin on Solano Avenue, a 100-plus-seat theater that has screened movies for more than eight decades, is also closing, Landmark Theatres confirmed Wednesday. Its final day is Thursday, June 15.
“Landmark Theatres is constantly evaluating its business strategy and has decided to close the Albany Twin,” wrote Mark Mulcahy, a spokesperson for Landmark Theatres. “We are proud to have served its community over its many years of operation.” Mulcahy noted customers can contact Landmark via email to request a refund.
Buck Cendejas, Albany Twin’s general manager, said the movie house was closing because Landmark wasn’t able to come to a new lease agreement with the property owner. Since the theater reopened in September 2021, business had “ebbed and flowed.”
The theater had six part-time employees, some of whom will transition into other roles at Landmark, Cendejas said.
It remains unclear what will happen to the building, which was built in the 1920s as a meeting hall and dance hall and later converted into the new home of the Albany Theatre, according to Landmark. It could decide to follow in the footsteps of the downtown Regal UA space, which is slated to become 293 apartments, and the former California Theatre, which is expected to bring high-rise housing behind the theater’s facade.
Cendejas, an Albany resident who started working there as floor staff at the theater eight years ago, said that he’s sad to see the institution go and hopes another operator will take over the space. “I would hate to see it sit dormant,” Cendejas said.
Berkeley and Albany neighbors have taken to social media to mourn the closure.
“When we came to Albany five years ago, the huge Albany sign on the theater was one of the first things we noticed going downhill on Solano,” Albany resident Artem Andrusov wrote in a post on Nextdoor, adding that his family plans to go there for one final showing on Thursday. “It was not just another Landmark cinema; it was Albany’s landmark.”
Landmark’s Piedmont Theatre is now the company’s last theater open in the East Bay.