California Theatre

2113 Kittredge Street,
Berkeley, CA 94704

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California Theatre Berkeley

The T & D Theatre was built for live theatre and movies. Designed in a Greek Revival style by architect Albert W. Cornelius, it opened December 9, 1914 with the Italian movie “Cabiria”. It had an orchestra and was equipped with a pipe organ. It was taken over by West Coast Theatres in March 1923 and was closed for remodeling on September 16, 1923, reopening on September 26, 1923 as the California Theatre. It was remodeled in 1952. It was triplexed on April 9, 1976 and renamed California Cinema Center. The California Theatre has been operated by Landmark Theatres since 1994.

Known as ‘The Cal’ to locals, the theatre closed in 2001 and was reopened by Landmark on June 28, 2002.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 40 comments)

mlind on January 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm

At one point it was called the Fox California.

chronicler on October 25, 2014 at 3:32 pm

This theatre was built in 1913, not in 1920.

Year: 1913 Building permit #: 3418 Address: 2115 Kittredge Street Owners: Turner & Dahnken Architect: A.W. Cornelius Contractor: Kidder & McCullough

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 25, 2014 at 7:50 pm

chronicler is correct. I suspect that the mistaken opening year of 1920 was taken from this photo information page from the Berkeley Public Library, which is titled “California Theatre under construction” and dated 1920. It is wrong about both.

The parked automobile in the foreground is clearly from the later 1920s, and if you zoom in on the license plate you can see “CAL 30” on it, so the photo probably dates from 1930, and certainly not from 1920. Zooming in on the sign at the lower right corner of the theater you can read most of it. It says “This Theatre is being completely rebuilt for Fox West Coast Theatres.” William Fox did not take over West Coast Theatres and add his name to it until the very late 1920s. The photo clearly depicts a remodeling that took place around that time.

The T & D chain became part of West Coast Theatres in 1923. The name T & D Theatre appears in the Berkeley Daily Gazette as late as March, 1923. The name California Theatre appears in the paper in May, 1923. This indicates that West Coast Theatres probably took control of this house early that year and changed the name soon after.

chronicler on November 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm

The T&D Theatre was renamed the California later than April 1923. It was still advertised as the T & D on 30 June 1923. By the beginning of October, it was the California.

chronicler on November 20, 2014 at 8:29 pm

The news that West Coast Theaters acquired the T & D chain first appeared in the Oakland Tribune on 20 March 1913:

“For a consideration of $1,675,000 the West Coast Theaters, Inc., a Southern California concern in which Sol Lesser, the Gore brothers, Adolph Ramish and Joseph Schenck are interested, took over the T. & D. holdings from Mrs. Hattie Turner, widow of James Turner, and Fred Dahnken, founders of the circuit.”

lateslice on January 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Hi, i work at the Cal.To answer a question from above;the two theaters upstairs seat 185, and the mainfloor is 600 capacity.

gabrielbarr on April 19, 2015 at 10:06 am

Great history! Does anyone know when the marquee was made? It looks like it is not from the 20’s or 30’s. It looks newer. Just my guess.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 19, 2015 at 3:19 pm

gabrielbarr: An earlier comment by long-time Cinema Treasure member William says that the California theater got a Skouras-style remodeling in 1952. That was probably when the current marquee was installed.

There might have been an earlier remodeling under the Skouras regime (major theaters in the chain would get an updating every few years, and the California would have been due for one in the late 1930s or early 1940s) but the pre-war marquees tended to be more elaborate than the one on the California, so it is most likely a post-war creation, and thus most likely installed as part of the 1952 project.

walterk on February 12, 2018 at 9:01 pm

This was the third Berkeley theatre built by Messrs. James Turner and Fred Dahnkan, the previous being the Berkeley Theatre (1911) and the Varsity Theatre (1912). They divested of both these venues before opening the T&D.

The last show under its original name took place September 16, 1923, a double bill featuring “White Shoulders” with Katherine MacDonald, and “A Noise in Newboro” featuring Viola Dana. An ad in the previous day’s Berkeley Gazette announced that afterwards the house would be closed for “extensive alterations”, reopening the following Saturday, September 22, and that its name thereafter would be the California.

The following Friday an announcement ran in the Gazette that the opening was to be delayed until the following Wednesday, September 26. The opening night’s feature was “Within The Law”, starring Norma Talmadge.

Ads for the final show, subsequent delay, and re-opening night now in the photo section, along with two ads announcing the 1914 opening.

rivest266 on August 13, 2018 at 11:39 am

This reopened as the California Cinema Center on April 9th, 1976. Ad in photo section.

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