Park Theatre

1275 El Camino Real,
Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Showing 25 comments

Kevin_OKeeffe on August 13, 2016 at 10:24 pm

I only went to this heater one time, but I drove up from Campbell in the mid-90s, in order to see the Ian McKellan version of “Rcihard III,” set in a 1930s, fascist Britain. Totally worth it!

ajtarantex on April 15, 2014 at 11:59 am

Gary it’s good to hear you went to the Demo Sale and bought some of the items, when i posted it on here I didn’t think anyone went! So it was great news to my ears that you did!

GaryParks on April 15, 2014 at 12:53 am

The Park has been completely demolished. I went to the demolition sale. A friend of mine and I bought all four of the metal sign fixtures which one held etched glass signs for the restrooms and the doors leading to the auditorium. Our plans are to restore these sign housings and I will create new etched glass, and these will be reused in another historic theatre we have in mind. Another friend of mine bought a pair of freestanding display frames which were stored in an alcove off to the side of the auditorium. This same friend tried to buy a pair of the original entry doors, but the sellers would not budge on price.

ajtarantex on November 1, 2013 at 3:26 pm

To; all this weekend they are having a demo sale they are tearing the building down, they have the Box office Complete Free Standing and all the seats ,the projectors and all booth equiptment, candy counters,Popcorn Machine, front doors, glass blocks in lobby, marquee letters and the P A R K from the vertical Sign , also lighted Poster Cases. The sale is THIS Sat And Sun 11/02-11/03 9 am to 4 pm , Bring Flashlight it is dark in there

huckleberrylain on January 2, 2013 at 4:38 am

I was working here when the theatre was shut down. It was a sad day for everyone. The owner tore out the sign illegally because Menlo Park had already deemed it as historical landmark. I remember that day too cause I was managing the Guild and another manager called me to tell me she was watching a wrecking crew take the sign apart and she wanted me to do something. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. If I was smart I woulda walked right over and made some BS up like I was with the city attorney’s office. Of course, he only got a slap on the wrist for that. Luckily I got some beautiful Super 8 footage of the animated marquee before it came down.

TLSLOEWS on February 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Nice phots Lost Memory.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 20, 2009 at 1:59 am

I forgot to close my quotes. The last sentence in that comment wasn’t in the Boxoffice item.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 20, 2009 at 1:56 am

The August 24, 1946, issue of Boxoffice Magazine said that the Park Theatre was under construction and expected to open in November that year. It was designed by San Francisco architect O.A. Deichmann (Otto Deichmann.) He also designed the Del Rio Theatre in Riverbank, California.

The March 22, 1947, issue of Boxoffice said: “Bob McNeil of Golden State gave a gala reception at his home last week following the opening of the Park Theatre at Menlo Park. Looks like the opening was a bit behind schedule.

bkengland on February 2, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Yes, it looks good now; however, note that the Daily News likely won’t keep the article at this url for very long, so you might want to provide a brief summary of its content here.

kencmcintyre on February 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Try it again, it’s working for me.

bkengland on February 1, 2008 at 9:39 pm

The 2/1 link does not work.

bkengland on October 4, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Council backs plan to save theater
City could buy property for $2.2 million, rent it to Menlo Park resident with restoration plans

By Banks Albach
Palo Alto Daily News
Thursday Oct 4, 2007

In one of its more controversial decisions this year, a divided Menlo Park City Council embraced a public-private partnership plan in an effort to save the Park Theater on El Camino Real.

Now city staff will negotiate details of a 55-year lease with Andy Duncan, who began acquiring the theater in January. As part of the council’s decision Tuesday night, the city will buy the property that the theater sits on for $2.2 million and rent it to Duncan, who wants to restore the theater.

Duncan had offered to pay a total of $800,000 in rent for that land the first 25 years and $70,000 annually afterward, but council members said that would place a financial burden on the city. They appointed council members Richard Cline and Heyward Robinson to a negotiation subcommittee.

“I have very strong opinions about saving this theater,” Cline said.

Duncan, a Menlo Park resident, has infused a sense of urgency into the debate, contending that the theater is falling apart and in desperate need of repair. Duncan also submitted signatures of 140 city residents who support his proposal.

“Once the theater is gone, it’s gone,” Duncan told the council. “I’m encouraged that the city council was seriously ready to take the next step and negotiate. I think there is room on both sides for a solution that makes sense.”

Under the current proposal, the city will have several chances to buy the theater from Duncan – for $2.1 million in 2011, $1.6 million in 2016, $950,000 in 2021 and $175,000 in 2026.

What has worried many people in Menlo Park, however, is Duncan’s plan to move his mother’s business, the Menlo Park Dance Academy, into the theater. Although he plans to restore the building so it can serve as a movie theater again, residents have expressed concerns about the city funding a private venture.

Among the 10 public speakers Tuesday, opinion was split. One person said the money should be spent on police, while another resident said the dance academy brings no community benefits. Those in favor said a historical theater will serve as a cultural anchor in Menlo Park, especially as the city considers revitalizing El Camino Real.

The 3-2 vote highlighted major differences on the dais as well. The majority is backing the plan because it appears to be the only way to eventually bring a community theater to Menlo Park. Mayor Kelly Fergusson said she has approached numerous developers over the past 18 months and none have shown interest.

“No one has stepped up,” Fergusson said. “(Now) Duncan has stepped up. This theater is a very important part of Menlo Park’s identity.”

Built in 1947, the building has enough historical significance to be on the National Registry of Historical Landmarks, which is good for a 20 percent federal tax break on construction costs, according to two experts Duncan has retained.

For the opposition, however, the deal seemed risky and too much like a handout. Council Member John Boyle said the council should sit tight and explore other options, rather than jump into something that could burden the city with unanticipated cost increases.

“Let’s not pretend that it’s anything but a pure dollar loss for the city,” Boyle said. “The taxpayers of Menlo Park are going to foot the bill for this.”

Besides not wanting to fund the project with public money, Vice Mayor Andy Cohen said the city is giving the landowner, Howard Crittenden, an easy way out of a tough property deal.

Crittenden originally wanted to convert the lot into office space. But because the building has historical significance, the California Environmental Quality Act demands an environmental analysis. By endorsing Duncan’s proposal, Cohen said, Crittenden is getting paid for his land yet avoiding the cost of the study.

“I’m not willing to give Crittenden a bye,” Cohen said. “No way.”

Duncan released his plans in January, but soon hit some snags as restoration and construction costs started to rise. He estimates that the price tag has climbed from $1.3 million to $2 million. The total cost, which includes the purchase from Crittenden, an Atherton resident, comes to about $4.2 million, Duncan said.

HowardBHaas on October 3, 2007 at 3:37 pm

9-25-07 San Mateo County Times article:
MENLO PARK â€" An ambitious plan to restore the Park Theater hinges on a last-ditch effort by Andy Duncan, the main proponent, to coax Menlo Park city officials into giving him a loan or joining him in a public-private partnership.
Duncan submitted a formal proposal to City Manager Glen Rojas on Thursday. Because of escalating restoration costs and the fact that a market-based solution to revamping the theater isn’t workable, Duncan has offered the city two options: Lend him $500,000 at 5 percent for 25 years or buy the land and lease it to him for 55 years.

At $2.2 million, the second option is far more expensive for the taxpayer, but it would give the city ownership of an important historical resource, Duncan said.

“My goal is to save the theater,” Duncan said.

Duncan plans to take out the chairs temporarily and layer the sloped floor with a dance floor so he can move his mother’s dance company, the Menlo Park Dance Academy, into the theater. Under fire from some residents for seeking the subsidy, Duncan has repeatedly claimed that the dance academy is not trying to make more money.

Another facet of his plan is getting the theater on the state and national registries of historical landmarks, a designation that comes with a 20 percent federal tax break on construction costs. Duncan hired architect Mike Garavaglia, who specializes in historic buildings, to assess the theater’s historical merit. Garavaglia has repeatedly said the theater meets the state and federal criteria.

But Duncan took a blow two weeks ago when Gilbert Workman, who chairs the Menlo Park Historical Association, told him his board unanimously agreed the theater does not meet historical criteria.

Since he announced his plans in January, Duncan said the project’s cost has risen from $1.3 million to $2 million. The total cost, which includes purchase of the land from Atherton resident Howard Crittenden, amounts to roughly $4.2 million, he said.

Reaction from the City Council has been cautious and mixed. Councilman John Boyle had not read the new proposal, but has said in the past he would like a stronger market approach. Vice Mayor Andy Cohen and Councilman Heyward Robinson said they are digesting the proposal.

Mayor Kelly Fergusson is the strongest proponent of restoration, but was cautious about endorsing Duncan’s proposal right away.

“I think it’s innovative,” Fergusson said. “That’s why a public-private partnership like this merits consideration.”

All the members agree, however, that the single-screen theater, built in 1947, should be restored to its original state. But how to get there has been the major question.

“The details are a little fuzzy,” Robinson said, referring to the recent proposal. “We need staff to take a look at it.”

Under the lease agreement, Duncan would commit to restoring the theater and paying the city $800,000 in rent up front for the first 25 years. After that, Duncan, or whoever is operating the dance academy, would pay roughly $70,000 per year. The city would have numerous opportunities to buy him out, as well.

The Menlo Park City Council will discuss Duncan’s proposal at its Oct. 2 meeting, 7 p.m. in council chambers at 701 Laurel St.

bkengland on August 5, 2007 at 4:09 pm

Hello Joe et al:
Please note that the web site listed above,, includes a contact email address that is still active. The situation with the theater continues to be monitored by the Save the Park Theater citizens group, and you can receive up to date information by requesting it if you’d like.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 4, 2007 at 11:50 pm

Two articles that are more recent than the one from August of 2006 linked above (though not very recent) about the Park Theatre (January 24, 2007 and January 31, 2007) are a bit more hopeful about the building’s future. A dance studio is not a theatre, of course, but such a use would at least make it possible to largely preserve the theatre’s interior layout and any surviving decoration in its auditorium. I’ve been unable to find any more recent information about Andy Duncan’s proposal. Maybe somebody from the area knows more.

tarantex on August 4, 2007 at 3:41 pm

the park was a nice single screen, I managed it for west Side Valley theatres, for two years when you ran the Park you also had too run the Guild, so if both Theatres were busy it was hell running back and forth , after time they had the projectionist running back and forth when they installed platters the Park had an old timer there when it was Carbon Arc his name was Lee he wore cowboy hat and boots
he was roy coopers best friend i called him a SPY. Harvey Anderson was the Manger before me At that time Roy cooper had the Belmont Bel Art ,Altos, Seavue Twin Pacifica,Fine Arts PaloAlto,Manor.San mateo,Grand, Strand, SF,Vacaville,Hacienda Sunnyvale,Hanford, Visalia,Oaks 3 , cupertino, Varsity .Cinema 1 &2 Davis,, rather large circuit for small company

bkengland on November 2, 2006 at 3:31 pm

A web site run by supporters of the Save the Park Theater citizens group is available at Among other information, a press release dated 9/21/2006 from the group’s organizer has just been added to the site.

Bway on August 21, 2006 at 7:15 am

What a shame that that beautiful marquee was ruined. thankfully, according to Lost’s article, the current owner will restore the fasade.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 28, 2006 at 12:40 pm

That is an unfortunate photograph.

CSWalczak on April 28, 2006 at 8:29 am

Recent photo at this website:
View link

PatPetitclerc on February 16, 2003 at 12:06 pm

The park theatre was originally part of Westside valley theatres and was sold in 1980 to Renaissance-Rialto theatres in San Francisco. I was employed here in 1982-83

Donald John Long
Donald John Long on January 19, 2003 at 8:43 pm

One of the finest theaters on the San Francisco peninsula, The Park Theatre in Menlo Park was a jewel of an Art Deco palace that has survived changing times, thankfully almost unscathed, until August 2002 when the Landmark Theater chain lost its lease with the owner. Now it is closed and boarded up, a forlorn reminder of better days in the past. One fond memory I have is going with a family group to the Park cinema in 1989 to see Disney’s “Little Mermaid”. It was a delightful ambience to enjoy a classic Disney animated feature in an Art Deco palace like this. The future of the Park Theater is now very uncertain.

Donald John Long
Donald John Long on December 20, 2002 at 9:48 pm

Preservation Alert! Endangered Species! This classic cinema treasure movie theater is in danger of being demolished or drastically remodeled, after being vandalized recently (See full story in Dec. 2002 Cinema Treasures News and Preservation Alert). If there is anything you can do to help save and restore this wonderful old picture palace, please let us know!

Donald John Long
Donald John Long on November 25, 2002 at 1:19 am

Today, November 24, 2002, I drove by this theater and it was closed and boarded up. Sadly and unfortunately also, the neon had been stripped off the marquee and the “PARK” letters had been removed from the marquee tower. I will do some investigation to determine its further status on the endangered theaters list.