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I went in the mid-80’s, when I was a college student—I remember they popped their popcorn with a standard hot-air popper, the kind you would have at home, and melted actual butter from the supermarket. They also sold Coke in tall glass bottles. Way better than mainstream cinema food! You had to be careful when you sat down, because the theater was dark and some of the seats were missing their bottoms. Once I was watching a film there and felt something furry squeeze by—a black lab or similar dog was cruising through all the aisles, looking for its owner. I remember seeing “North by Northwest” there. It was a vivid experience to see anything at the Telegraph Rep!
After they demolished the building, someone spray-painted “Cinema is Dead” on a remaining wall amidst the rubble.
My last view of the Act1-2 was in early 2006—my husband and I were out for a walk around Berkeley, and we explored an unfamiliar alley behind some all-too-familiar buildings. We found an open door with an inviting staircase, and went up, trepidatiously. We slowly climbed the old steps, pausing to admire graffiti drawings along the way, and expecting every moment to be caught and yelled at. At the top of the stairs we found a deserted-but-well-lit hallway, and tiptoed to a door at one end. We tested it gingerly—it swung open to reveal an auditorium full of blue, empty seats. We had walked into the Act 2 theater, just next to the screen. That was our farewell gift from the Act1-2, it turned out. The last movie I saw there was “Schulze Gets the Blues”.
I remember it had a big arrangement of hanging white lamps that seemed ultra-modern at the time, and entertainingly kitschy in later years. Though I agree it was never considered any kind of architectural treasure—it was the new, big, modern cinema that was driving the older theaters out!
I suspect the same architects were also involved in the UA cinema along Bayshore in Redwood City, because its bathroom has the unusually long arrangement of sinks & stalls that was characteristic of the Hillsdale (though I remember the Hillsdale’s stall doors as being some kind of hyper 70’s color like bright orange, or harvest gold.)
Coincidentally, a teacher at Ralston Intermediate School in Belmont appeared as an extra in “Family Plot”. I saw it at the Hillsdale, and almost fell out of my chair getting dizzy during the mountain-driving sequence.