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restoration and was well acquainted with
its needs. She had soon prepared a
stencil of the design to be transferred
onto new fabric.
Theatre operator Conner collaborated
with local upholsterer Jimmy Luque to
find the perfect curtain fabric,
eventually selecting Turkish velvet.
After Ms. Bruhl creates a newly painted
curtain panel and it is attached to the
existing curtain, the curtain will be back
to itself again.
To learn more about the historic
Alameda Theatre, visit
Re: Curtain from the Alameda Business Update 10/25/2010:
The Theatre’s original, elaborately handpainted
screen curtains were central to its
design when it opened in the 1930’s.
Eventually, the right-hand stage curtain fell
into disrepair, sustaining irreparable water
damage. When the Restoration Project began
in 2000, replacement fabric was used to
complete the curtain.
This year, the City and Alameda
Entertainment Associatesâ€™ Kyle Conner began
a search for the right fabric – and the right
artist – to recreate the lost curtain piece.
Among several candidates for the job, Bay
Area artist Beate Bruhl was chosen to copy the
fabric’s intricate design and paint it onto new
fabric. Ms. Bruhl had worked with the crew to
gold-leaf the Theatre during its 2008
Thanks for your photos Will— they are fabulous! Wish we could get them substituted for the photo at the top of this page.
There will be a talk by Therese Poletti, on Timothy Pflueger, the architect of this theater as well as 11 others around California, sponsored by the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society on January 24 at 6 p.m. Ms. Poletti wrote a book on this architect called “Art Deco San Francisco: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger”. The lecture will be hosted by the Alameda Theatre in the main, historic auditorium. Please see http://www.alameda-preservation.org/ for more information, and also http://blog.timothypflueger.com/ .
I have yet to actually see a film in the big theater except for at the gala. But, saw Indiana Jones on one of the other screens— no problems except 3 minutes late starting. Saw Wall-E a couple weeks ago, no projection problems, and just returned from Mamma Mia and it was fine. So are these horrible problems just happening in the big theater or have I just been lucky?
Well, someday it would be nice to have an updated photo, and i am not sure about the seat listing either— I think that is the number of seats for the old theater.
Several of you have taken photos of the theater recently— does anyone know how the Cinema Treasures photo can get replaced? The green and mauve is driving me nuts.
I could be wrong, but I thought that at the time of the opening, the curtain repair was still not funded or accomplished. the intent was to keep the original curtain, except for part which suffered water damage, and that was to be replaced with a reproduction. Not sure if they obtained the money to do that yet, so that could be affecting the opening and closing of the curtain.
We went to the opening gala on Thursday, and also to see Indiana Jones on Saturday night. The 7 pm show in the main theater was sold out so we bought tickets for the 8:15 pm show in theater 5. We found our seats, very comfy, and everything seemed fine for us. This showing also sold out. The show started about 3 minutes late but I think that was because people were trying to find places to sit together in the theater with only 1 seat gaps left. There was a Coke left in my seat cupholder from the previous show that I got up and threw away, so cleaning crew may need some more training. But overall, things seemed to run smoothly and I am so glad to have the main theater restored— it looks fabulous.
Here is how to get there by public transit:
Take BART to the Fruitvale station. Take the AC Transit 50 bus to Park and Santa Clara stop. Walk one block south and one half block west to the theater.
Here is the link to the grand opening gala on 5/21 and the family opening event on 5/24: alamedatheatreopening.com
Yes, I have belonged to Alameda Architectural Preservation Society for 20 years since I moved to Alameda and my husband has belonged even longer, 32 years; of course it was called AVPS then because it was started to stop the destruction of Victorian buildings. The entire block does not have the setbacks of the buildings civic buildings pink describes— it has the setback of the commercial block it is next to on Park Street. Twin Towers is also not set back. I totally disagree there is any problem with the massing.
New Web site: http://www.savealamedatheater.com .
It’s true there is plenty of land for a theater on the base, but the traffic issues are even worse. Access is only through the tube at that end of town.
As far as the historic, folksy feel of the Oak/Central/Park— I can only say that historic Alameda was very tall— there was a huge tower on City Hall, also one on the building where Starbucks is now. I don’t see why the cineplex extension isn’t being considered an improvement to the existing streetscape as the building itself will fit in better with the surroundings than a weedy parking lot! Also, they are presently changing the design as directed by City Council to make it more compatible with the surrounding buildings, while still complying with the SHPO requirements to be clearly differentiated from the historic building.
I have followed the fate of the theater for 20 some years, and have read everything on the stopmegaplex site— there is nothing new there, and lots of misinformation. My question about these various proposals that supposedly arose in the last three years— why didn’t they get something together prior to that? After 2000, it was quite apparent that redevelopment funds were going to be used.
Once the city signed an exclusive negotiating agreement, in 2002 I believe, how exactly would they negotiate with someone else without being sued?
The other actual proposals that came around in about 1995 and 1997 were including extra screens, off to the side, just like this proposal. At the time, the city was unwilling to spend redevelopment money to solve the parking problem, so neither of those proposals went through because of the city’s failure to solve that issue.
Obviously, pink, you disagree that having a cineplex downtown can be an anchor project that increases sales in the rest of downtown. I feel it can be, and if you have been to downtown Hayward and downtown San Jose, there is quite a difference between those cities in terms of what they did there and how the place feels than there is and will be in Park Street downtown, my neighborhood. Also, the city is not buying the Cinematecs company’s equipment— the developer has to spend $1.2 million of his own money at minimum on it, so since it is his own company I am sure he can get more for less. He is financing $7.2 million of the project privately and borrowing $2.4 million from the city, so I would disagree that he is not putting “a penny” into the project. The city needs and operator for the theater— they don’t want to be it themselves— and Conner is available and stuck with the project when the other partner, Atlas, dropped out. All these people who say that they have a proposal that is financially sound— I say, put the details on the stopmegaplex site and I will look at them— meanwhile, I want this project to save the theater.
There is now a Web site, friendsofalamedatheater.org , for the rehabilitation project.
I just looked at the pictures of the interior of the Egyptian on the architects site— Yech! It does look terrible. In the case of the Alameda, buffer walls were put in for the roller rink which will be removed and the ornamentation is behind them. The walls of the auditorium are to be preserved— the niches will be cleaned and some metal leaf reapplied at water damage areas and light fixtures restored. There are going to be some acoustical panels installed on the concrete piers for THX rating. But my understanding is that the side walls and the proscenium arch, orchestra pit and stage will look much the same as they originally did, except some worn because they are not being restored, just cleaned and preserved. There are some good old pictures at http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/theater/overview.html , follow the links to “Historical Photos.” So there will be stadium seating put in, yes, but the modernistic stuff of the Egyptian on the walls is not to be put in the Alameda. The new concession stand will be under the balcony, as in the Egyptian.
Yes, they are using federal grants— that is part of the 9 million. Restoring the marquee is in the budget, and the interior light fixtures. There are lots of things they are missing, though, some chandeliers were used in the Paramount restoration, there is a large mirror from the lobby or the mezzanine that is missing. A lot of the expense is for seismic, a lot of it for ripping out the cement slab poured for the roller rink without damaging anything, and also to find a leak and repair water damage that has probably been continuous for a number of years. It has not been a working theater for 26 years—was the El Capitan ever vacant? I understand that the whole concrete facade is held up by 4 redwood posts. I am not thrilled about the stadium seating either, but there is no reason it couldn’t be ripped out and sloped seating installed later. The restoration standards specify that it must be removable without damaging the historic features.
OK, Mr. Faulkner, do you really live in the UK or are you here in Alameda? If you were here five years ago, or had read my previous posts you would know that the city went through an extensive, and totally democratic process to come up with this idea. The outcome of the public hearings and workshops called “Downtown Visioning” which took place in 2000 was that the reopening of the Alameda Theater AS A PLACE FOR FIRST RUN MOVIES (my emphasis) was the top priority for revitalization of downtown. Since then, the city searched high and low for someone who would be able to do that. First they tried to find someone to open a one to three screen in the original— no takers. Existing one to three screens are not doing well right now— and this one needs a lot of work. So fortunately there is land next door where a modern cineplex can be built, and that is the proposal that has been negotiated for three years to come up with something workable for the whole package, theater restoration/rehabilitation, modern cineplex, and parking garage. There are no big surprises here. If the city spent $25-$30 million to restore the theater exactly the way it was, and was able to lease it to a movie operator at the going rate of $1.30/square foot, that would give only about $26,000 per year, and that is provided the city could find an operator for it, not a guarantee. It is currently rented at only about $2000/year. If the city voted to do this and then spent another $8 million for the necessary parking garage, I guarantee that Alamedans would go wild and oust their reps from office for fiscal reasons. This proposal allows Alameda to spend only $9 million for the theater restoration, the developer spends another $8-9 million on the cineplex, the city spends $8 million on the parking garage, and owns the theater, the parking garage, and the land under the cineplex. Nothing will be ruined, according to the preservation consultants, there are holes (not giant holes) in the ceiling, but not the roof, that may not be repaired right away because it is not in the budget, and because of budget we will not be able to apply the original gold leaf finishes on interiors. Oh, and another thing, having the cineplex next door will allow compliance with ADA without having to have ramps inside the historic building compromising the original architecture. It is in no way a desecration, it is a start. City Council requested modifications to the cineplex building exterior to make it less modern-looking on Tuesday.
I really don’t understand the previous comment about this being a desecration. There is now a site put up by the city that tells about the project at http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/theater/ . All of the work is being done according to National Trust for Historic Preservation guidelines. There is no way that the city can get the historic preservation grants that are needed if anything is done that ruins the theater. I love the Paramount and would love to see the theater completely restored— that day may come, but this project gets us partway there. If Mr. Faulkner would like to donate the additional $15 million or so that is needed for complete restoration, I am sure that we here in Alameda would appreciate it. I am not thrilled about the design of the new buildings next door, but they will replace an ugly weedy surface parking lot and a schlocky former hamburger stand. I have followed the fate of the theater for more than 20 years— this is our chance to save it. There is a better 2000 seat venue for stage performances one block away from this theater and we in Alameda sit in the shadow of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley when it comes to regional stage performances. Our Alameda Civic Light Opera cannot even support itself on ticket prices and low rent, let alone support a multi-million dollar theater restoration! I resent the comments about the City Council pulling the wool over our eyes— the whole project has been conceived and negotiated in response to citizen request. Without the city’s redevelopment bonds, nothing would be happening with the theater except its continued deterioration. The past has been a desecration— you should see the inside of the theater currently, it’s a disgrace— and this project will save the building and its historic features. The stadium seating is removable if fashions in seating change. The original seating is not available.
You can now get an overview of the whole project at http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/theater/
Please look at it. Many of us in Alameda feel this is the only way to save the historic theater.
This is a beautiful theater, but “restored” is a misnomer. It was made grander in interior decoration than it ever was originally when it was rehabbed. I don’t have a problem with what was done but I think “restoration” should be used carefully, or people will think that the historical theater looked as it does now.
The comments toward the end of the story, about Hong Kong losing 70% of its movie audience when they cut the window between theatrical release and DVD, are scary for people wanting to restore historic theaters, let alone the general movie theater business.
So, the “stop the megaplex” idea, let me get this straight is to have the city spend the $15-$20 million to completely restore the theater to its original glory— let’s be conservative and say $15 million, and then let’s have two parking garages instead of one, but since the total amount of parking spaces will be the same, let’s say that it will cost the same as one big one, about $8-9 million. Oh yes, let’s pay the present owner his asking price of $3.? million. Oh and also, another developer is offering to put in $1.9 million. So let’s just say it’s around $25 million. And then this developer will operate it as a single or double screen, non-stadium seating theater for 5 years, and then of course he and his investors will buy the property for the $15 million the city put into it. I only know of one theater operating with one screen only in the Bay Area, the Chabot, and it is only 431 seats and a discount house. There are only 3 I can think of with 2 screens; 2 of them are in Berkeley, a bigger place with a high student coefficient. With a single or double screen, there will not be as many tickets sold, not as many people going to the theater if they have already seen what’s showing or aren’t interested in it, probably no people coming here from surrounding cities so not an economic catalyst project. How do these numbers add up? Instead, there is a development agreement for a multiplex that gets ¾ of the historic theater restored and has the potential for more people going to the movies every week and shopping on Park Street,paying sales tax. It is more likely to be purchased by the operator in 5 years for at least the money the city put into the theater and cineplex. That is not counting the repayment of the $1.4 million loan and the rental payments, which the city should continue to receive if the property is not purchased at one of the option points. And that the developer has to put up around $7 million up front in private financing before they can even start building. I am not sure who would say that a one or two screen theater has a better chance of succeeding than a multiplex theater— no one seems to be building any brand new ones.
Eminent domain— I believe the donut shop owner got the eviction documents, but eminent domain procedings won’t be necessary. As you say, the building is for sale.
The city is not really spending a lot of money on a private business. The private business is assisting the city to spend its money to restore the theater and make a viable movie theater complex out of it. The restoration of the theater is what people wanted and the developer is investing some money and expertise to help that happen, all in exchange for an option to buy with lots of conditions at the end of 5 years of leaseback as the theater operator. The city does not want to be in the position of being a theater operator itself, as it was a rental housing landlord before the Linoaks Motel was torn down for the new library.