California Theatre

2113 Kittredge Street,
Berkeley, CA 94704

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Showing 26 - 39 of 39 comments

gsmurph on April 19, 2005 at 1:54 pm

Perhaps it’s just some peculiarity of mine, but I actually find the two balcony theaters more “classic” than the main one(!). Did the California ever have a proscenium—-or was it one of those “open-spaced” (for lack of a better term) live theatrs? Something for a real theater historian to ponder…

gsmurph on September 20, 2004 at 8:07 am

The original architect of the T&D/California was Albert W. Cornelius.

PaulF on September 17, 2004 at 12:32 pm

In response to “jedleland”: I stand behind what I said about the weak visual and the terrible sound problem 100%. Maybe Eternal Sunshine was playing on two of the Cal’s screens, and one was better that the other. Possibly you are a theater owner or manager lashing out to protect your business. All these three movies you mention are of course “dazzling” films… as films…but seeing/ hearing them as projected through an algae covered fish tank is not what I pay 9 bucks for. I wish I was you and could blissfully enjoy these movies presented this way, but alas…to my acute senses..(ears and eyes checked only two weeks ago)…the experience is excruciating. As for cutting edge cinematography: I had seen the Hidden Dragon courtyard scene in three other places before I saw it at the dark as an Oregon cave Act 1 theater…most detail was lost…and I know “Eternal Sunshine” is experimental and even has a lot of “lo-fi”45 rpm noise and reverse looping in it’s soundtrack , but it’s hard to appreciate through a blown drive-in movie speaker. That said, the Act1 and 2 provide a priceless service with their midnight movies and their screening of the only print of Bruce Campbell’s “Running Time” was an awesome event, which I’ll be forever grateful for. Which leads one to think that they (Landmark ) like movies , but that someone’s giving the order to keep the bulbs low to save money, and that their “plants” â€"theaters , are falling into disrepair. And sorry, I didn’t really mean to bulldoze the pretty building, (the Cal) , but that it might be better utilized as a ballroom or something.

jedleland on September 13, 2004 at 3:03 pm

I also saw “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” at the Act 1, “Return of the King” at the Grand Lake, and “Eternal Sunshine…” at the California – twice. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the audio or video at any of these shows, in fact the Grand Lake and California offered dazzling presentation.

Is it possible that PaulF might want to see an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist, or bone up on cutting edge uses of cinematography.

PaulF on June 23, 2004 at 2:48 pm

Hi…didn’t know who to write/ talk to. We saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind at the California theater… 4/10/04. The screening was a disaster. The projection bulb was “low”…the image was dark, blue-ish…you had to strain to see details…I’m actually used to that. But the sound was another story- it was turned up to ear bleeding levels and the speakers sounded shredded. Loud is good , as in a good rock'n'roll record…loud as in killing squirrels in just negligent or teenage workers goofing around or bad policy. (one projectionist on the inet used the term “blown speaker drivers”) No one complained that I could see, which is terrible…people just accepting this. It was heartbreaking/ frustrating because this was an extremely important, anticipated movie. As was Hidden Dragon which got the same low bulb treatment at the Landmark Act 1 theater. This treatment of these movies is signaling the death knell for 9 dollar a head public theaters. We saw the third Lord of the Rings at the Grand Lake theater in Oakland, CA..and I could tell in the first minute that it will look better on our 249.00 dollar tv at home. Preserve and protect indeed….I’ve always said I would throw myself in front of the bulldozers if they were heading for the Castro Theatre (S.F.)…but I can’t say the same for the California.

JimRankin on May 27, 2004 at 3:16 am

This theatre is one of some 200 that could be described as “Skouras-ized For Showmanship” which is the title of the ANNUAL of 1987 of the Theatre Historical Soc. of America. In the late 1930s through the 1950s, there occurred on the west coast of the United States a phenomenon known as the ‘Skouras style’ in recognition of the oversight of the Skouras brothers in their management of several cinema chains. They employed a designer by the name of Carl G. Moeller to render their cinemas/theatres in a new style best described as ‘Art Moderne meets Streamlined Rococo.’ The then new availability of aluminum sheeting at low cost was the principal material difference to this style allowing for sweeping, 3-dimensional shapes of scrolls to adorn walls and facades in an expression that would have been much more expensive and not at all the same in plaster. With the use of hand tinted and etched aluminum forms, the designers could make ornaments in mass production that allowed much greater economies of scale. The ANNUAL also shows in its 44 pages how some 20 theatres were good examples of this combining of aluminum forms with sweeping draperies heavily hung with large tassels, and with box offices and facades richly treated with neon within the aluminum forms. Few of these examples survive today, but it was a glorious era while it lasted, and this collection of crisp b/w photos is a fitting epitaph by the late Preston Kaufmann.
To obtain any available Back Issue of either “Marquee” or of its ANNUALS, simply go to the web site of the THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA at:
and notice on their first page the link “PUBLICATIONS: Back Issues List” and click on that and you will be taken to their listing where they also give ordering details. The “Marquee” magazine is 8-1/2x11 inches tall (‘portrait’) format, and the ANNUALS are also soft cover in the same size, but in the long (‘landscape’) format, and are anywhere from 26 to 44 pages. Should they indicate that a publication is Out Of Print, then it may still be possible to view it via Inter-Library Loan where you go to the librarian at any public or school library and ask them to locate which library has the item by using the Union List of Serials, and your library can then ask the other library to lend it to them for you to read or photocopy. [Photocopies of most THSA publications are available from University Microforms International (UMI), but their prices are exorbitant.]

Note: Most any photo in any of their publications may be had in large size by purchase; see their ARCHIVE link. You should realize that there was no color still photography in the 1920s, so few theatres were seen in color at that time except by means of hand tinted renderings or post cards, thus all the antique photos from the Society will be in black and white, but it is quite possible that the Society has later color images available; it is best to inquire of them.

Should you not be able to contact them via their web site, you may also contact their Executive Director via E-mail at:
Or you may reach them via phone or snail mail at:
Theatre Historical Soc. of America
152 N. York, 2nd Floor York Theatre Bldg.
Elmhurst, ILL. 60126-2806 (they are about 15 miles west of Chicago)

Phone: 630-782-1800 or via FAX at: 630-782-1802 (Monday through Friday, 9AM—4PM, CT)

RobertR on April 29, 2004 at 1:43 pm

I thought the Sound of Music sing along was a discrace

bruceanthony on April 29, 2004 at 1:33 pm

I recently saw The Sound of Music sing a long at the California. I liked what landmark did with the theatre. The California was a Fox West Coast/National General Theatres house for many years. I saw the Odd Couple here back in 1967 when it was still a single screen. The California boasts the largest screen in Berkeley but it is much smaller than the screen that use to be in this theatre. It would be nice if Landmark would restore the lighting in the ceilings and the curtain in front of the screen. The staff at this theatre loves working there and we had a long discussion of its history and when it was a single screen.brucec

William on April 29, 2004 at 12:07 pm

The California Theatre originally seated around 1000 people when it was a single screen theatre.

gsmurph on April 29, 2004 at 6:47 am

The California was built in 1914 and was originally called the T&D Theater (not to be confused with Oakland’s T&D) prior to its 1930’s renovation into its present-day exterior and name.

Donald John Long
Donald John Long on November 12, 2002 at 11:36 pm

I had a date with a lovely lady here in this palatial Art Deco picture palace in the summer of 1989 to see a Woody Allen flick.

We enjoyed it completely, and had a nice tour of the building before the movie began.

GaryParks on August 17, 2002 at 1:32 pm

About a week ago, my wife and I stopped by the newly reopened Cal, and had a nice chat in the lobby with the manager (who, we were interested to learn, was—like us—recently married in a vintage theatre, but I digress). The lobby has lushly patterned new carpet, everything is repainted, including the Skouras-era ceiling embellishments in gold, and the concession counter has been nicely refurbished. An aesthetic bonus is the golden ceiling rosette which was revealed to be hidden above a dropped ceiling when the concession area was extended and renovated. It dates from an earlier decorative scheme, and originally formed part of the balcony soffit. A nice contemporary alabaster-like hanging fixture has been suspended from this feature for a nice look.

The only negative thing about the recent seismic work that I can see is the removal of the old brick stage fly tower, which now negates the future use of the house for stage shows someday. As the theatre never had much in the way of lobby space, perhaps this would never have been an issue anyway.

scottfavareille on July 5, 2002 at 1:25 pm

The California just reopened on June 28th. Current attractions: “MIB2” (downstairs & 1 upstairs), “Cinema Paradiso” (1 upstairs). Landmark still runs the place.

GaryParks on April 20, 2002 at 11:39 pm

As of Spring 2002, the California is well into a massive seismic retrofit. Steel columns have been added to the exterior sidewalls. Where it has been necessary to remove portions of the brick walls, great care has been taken to replace them in like manner.