Fight for Park Theatre

posted by moviefan on June 28, 2007 at 7:55 am

LAFAYETTE, CA — Why can’t the people of Lafayette, California take an interest in the Park Theatre. It closed over a year ago and has been bought by someone who won’t let it return as a theatre.

I have written a story about it. One page. No one will publish it. It also contains a photo I took of the theatre. I tried the San Francisco Chronicle and the Contra Costa Times but with no luck.

I love this little one screen theatre and now it’s gone. The Cerrito Theatre was saved, the Lark in Larkspur, CA is being saved, but what about the Park Theatre?

With all the culture and wealth in the wonderful town of Lafayette, California, why can’t they form a Friends of the Park Theatre like they did in El Cerrito and in Larkspur. Is anybody listening? I’d love to send the little half page story with a photo to someone who will publish it.

Please if you know anyone who can help.

Thanks for listening.

Joyce Granville

Comments (1)

TheaterBuff1 on June 29, 2007 at 11:13 pm

If it’s any consolation, Joyce, I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. I had the same experience here in Philadelphia, PA several years back (see Cinema Treasures' Holme Theatre page, /theaters/9141/),,) where an old historic single-screen movie theater building — designed in the Art Deco style by William Harold Lee no less — was vacant for a time, it’s not having served as a movie theater since the 1950s. And in its forelorn, boarded-uo state it just looked so ripe for becoming a beautiful neighborhood theater once more. But alas, developers who had other ideas for it beat me to the draw. Plus, the over all community response to my proposal could not have been more hostile.

This, of course, isn’t to say the reasons why your plan and mine were blocked are one and the same, as the reasons why in Philly’s case appear to be rather unique. In this instance the community where the theater building stands — though far from being ghetto — is hardly posh. It’s for the most part small town-like and middle class, but also extremely poorly educated, and with the overwhelming majority of current residents (who are not the residents of this community originally) and the politicians very determined to keep things that way. And a well-run, beautifully restored neighborhood movie theater of historic significance simply would not fit well with that theme.

And other than my experience, just to show how you’re not totally alone, you should review the commentaries posted at Cinema Treasures' DuPage Theater page (/theaters/801/) which got so bad CT had to finally shut it down. In that case it was an atmospheric single-screen movie palace designed by the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp — which many rank as the greatest theater designing firm of all time — and was located in the very posh village of Lombard, Illinois just outside of Chicago. And it appears very good plans were in place to breathe all new life into it. But, for a theater that just happened to be located in the worst possible place people-wise. In that case there was a ferocious stampede to get the historic theater torn down completely, not even so much as converted to another usage, as it was in your case and mine.

Out in California, though, where motion picture production is such a mainstay of its over all economy, it’s especially uncanny that anyone would put up any resistance to a theater being kept as a theater.

But, I suppose, as it is here in Philadelphia, PA and up in Lombard, Ill, people in that particular California town have their good reasons, or at least “good” from their own viewpoint, for putting up resistance, in some instances outright hostility, to keeping movie theaters at bay. Fortunately though, it’s not that way every place. Here at this Cinema Treasures website you’ll find many wonderful accounts of theater rescues and restorations that were accompanied with the greatest community support and enthusiasm. Right here in the state of Pennsylvania and in neighboring New Jersey we have many such cases — the Ambler, the Colonial, the Hi-Way, the County, the Majestic, the State, the Broadway, the Beach… (well, we’re still watching with the Beach, but I think it’s going to be okay.)

To me personally, as I’m sure it is with you, a movie theater that’s alive and well is a healthy sign, the mark of a very great place to be, to live, to work, to thrive. And fortunately we still have that some places, just not everywhere.

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