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Lots of rumors and stories flying around regarding the sale of the Sequoia Theatre to the California Film Institute (CFI), operators of the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, CA.
Just to set the record straight…
The Sequoia Theatre BUILDING was sold to the CFI – as a presumably future operation for them. The building has three current tenants under lease – a curio gift shop, a make-up parlor and the CineArts Sequoia. At this time, all three tenants will continue to occupy and operate their businesses under CFI’s purchase agreement. This includes Cinemark Theatres, which currently operates the CineArts Theatres, and will continue to run the theatre under the terms of their lease, for at least for 3 more years, with two five-year extensions at their discretion.
The decision to turn over operation of the Sequoia to the CFI, prior to November of 2021, rests for the time being, completely in Cinemark’s hands. They could decide to surrender the lease in 2011, 2016 or not until it runs out in 2021. Only time will tell at this point. But, for the time being, it will remain a CineArts Theatre, and be operated solely by Cinemark Theatres.
LarryS – That’s a little harsh.
First of all, Century Theatres has “built” only two (with a third in the works) CineArts theatres in the recent past – at Santana Row in San Jose and in Sacramento (the third is planned to replace an existing CineArts in Pleasant Hill). Hardly “all over” Northern California! Upscale communities? Yes, because that is where the people with both the the interest in supporting these venues and the disposable income to do it regularly live now. None of these communities could have been previously considered “hot beds” of art film. Century is bring these communities something that they didn’t previously have, for the most part. The days of having to drive to an urban center like SF for art films is passing quickly – and at the current cost of gas and bridge fares, thank goodness.
Three of the other four Bay Area CineArts were being operated as “art houses” before Century took them over in 2001, and, I might add, long before the Film Institute reopened the Rafael Film Center (the Sequoia in Mill Valley, the Marin in Sausalito and the Palo Alto Square near Stanford U. on the SF peninsula – the fourth, the Empire in SF was converted from a sub-run house to an art house a couple of years ago). They just continued the booking policies for these theatres under the CineArts moniker.
Also, having been involved in the hearings and personally knowing the Syufy brothers who run Century, I can assure you they had no intention of a Downtown San Rafael theatre having CineArts screens. In fact, part of the reason they got the endorsement from the California Film Institute for the Downtown complex was their assurance that the theatre was not being considered as an art film venue. Their intent was to balance out the distribution of mainstream films offered in Marin and to contribute to the vitality of Downtown San Rafael as a cultural and entertainment center for Marin County.
Most of the mainstream screens are currently located in Northern Marin. Their desire was to make mainstream films more accessible in Central and Southern Marin and present them in a state of the art, modern theatre (possibly closing some of the aging north county multiplex screens they inherited from Pacific Theatres in the process).
In addition, Century and the Film Institute have a good ongoing relationship, annually co-hosting the institute’s Mill Valley Film Festival. This is a valuable partnership for both Century and the Institute, and since Century operates the only theatre in Mill Valley, it could hardly remain the “Mill Valley Film Festival” without their mutual cooperation.
The Century theatre you refer to was not slated to play art films, but was going to feature mainstream film fare, and their proposal was endorsed by the Film Institute that operates the Rafael Theatre as a positive contribution to Downtown San Rafael as a film center. However, after concerns surfaced over the possible traffic and parking impact on downtown, San Rafael-based Century Theatres agreed to hold off pursuing their plans until these issues can, if possible, be settled to everyone’s satisfaction. While Century’s proposal received the city’s blessing and could be revisited in the future, it has, for all practicle purposes been abandoned at this time.
A correction to the above —-
The Tam Theatre, as the locals new it, was originally opened in 1924-25 as the Tamalpais Community Playhouse, and one year later, became the Tamalpais Theatre and was operated as a movie theatre until its closing in 1989. It was built and operated for most of its existence by the Blumenfeld Theatre circuit of San Francisco, and later (from 1976 until its closing) by Pacific Theatres of Los Angeles. The theatre was named after a local geological landmark, Mount Tamalpais, which dominates views for most of central and southern Marin County, north of San Francisco.
It seated 1086, all on one main floor, with about 250 of these seats, located at the back of the theare, being rocking-back loges (cost 50 cents extra to sit in them when I was a kid!)
To fill in missing info above:
Seats: 345/auditorium (X2)
Address: 25 Throckmorton Av, Mill Valley 94941
The Sequoia was built and operated for almost 50 years by the Blumenfeld Theatres circuit of San Francisco, from its opening in Feb., 1929. The theatre was arguably the most beautiful one in operation in Marin County, north of San Francisco, during this period. In its early days, in addition to silent, and later, sound films, it featured vaudeville-style acts on its full stage and live musical entertainment between shows on a large Wurlitzer theatre organ.
Operation of the theatre was taken over by Pacific Theatres in 1976, one year after it was “twinned”.
The lobby has actually undergone a few remodels over the years. First was the addition of its original snack bar, tucked under the stadium balcony – one of the first in Northern California – on the side of the lobby. When the theatre was first twinned in 1975, a new snack bar was installed in the center of the lobby running its length, and effectively cutting it in half, with a box office at its “nose” by the front entry.
In 1999, Pacific Theatres remodeled the theatre once again, replacing the original auditorium seats with plush, high-back loge style ones, improved the notoriously bad between-auditorium soundproofing, installed digital sound capabilities in both theatres and once again, completely changed the lobby layout. At this time some of the original architectural details in the lobby were uncovered and/or restored, and a new snack bar was installed along the left side of the lobby, opening it back up to better flow. The facade of the building was given a cosmetic facelift and the marquee was replaced with one fashioned after the theatre’s original 1929 marquee.
In 2001, Pacific sold its Marin Division to Century Theatres, who now operate the Sequoia as a “CineArts” theatre, specializing in art, independent and foreign films. The building is still owned by the Blumenfeld family and The Sequoia remains host to the annual Mill Valley Film Festival, held the first two weeks each October.