California Theatre

2113 Kittredge Street,
Berkeley, CA 94704

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Showing 1 - 25 of 38 comments

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 19, 2015 at 12:19 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.

gabrielbarr on April 19, 2015 at 7:06 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.

lateslice on January 16, 2015 at 1:44 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.

chronicler on November 20, 2014 at 5:29 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.”

chronicler on November 20, 2014 at 5:23 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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 25, 2014 at 4:50 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 October 25, 2014 at 12:32 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

mlind on January 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

At one point it was called the Fox California.

Mikeyisirish on December 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm

A few July 2012 photos can be seen here, here, here and here.

MagicLantern on March 1, 2011 at 4:52 am

Anyone got a breakdown of number of seats in each auditorium?

kpdennis on April 25, 2009 at 1:41 pm

The Cal as it appeared in spring 1996:
View link

kencmcintyre on January 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Here is a photo showing the opening of Fahrenheit 9/11 in June 2004:

larrygoldsmith on September 15, 2008 at 10:14 am

Terry, Me again. In regards to proper title curtain cues, at the beginning of a film usually the “Trademark” is shown first, curtain should remain closed during this time. There usually a short dark period right after trademark is shown, this is the curtain open cue. If film preludes the trademark the curtain cue would be immediate.NEVER should a curtain open on a blank screen, that’s why there are curtain cues. The end of a film will show the curtain cue with a small “splash” at top right of screen, which is not the same as a changeover cue. Also, curtain should be closed and reopened if previews are shown before feature showing feature trademark on curtain. In the old days this format was followed, if the projectionist was well seasoned. Fox West Coast Theatres, NGC Theatres used to monitor to make sure this curtain procedure was followed.

terrywade on September 14, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Hi**The downstairs theater at the California is the same size as it was before in the 50’s. They only twined the balcony into two small cinemas. They put in a smaller flat screen and moved it up a little. The curtains are still on the sides but they don’t work,the motor is broke. Landmark does have curtains that work across the street at another cinema they run. They have them only because the original owner had put them in. Every time I go to the Landmark Albany or the California I always tell them If you can’t fix your curtains then at least put some blue, green or red lights on the boring white screen. I watch people come in 20 minutes before the film starts and look at a white screen. Sometimes music will be playing or you may be lucky to see video adds run with the house lights up to wash all the add image off the screen. How nice If the California got the motor fixed and put in some blue lights on the curtain like the old days. Some projection managers at Landmark don’t even know the proper way to work the curtains they do have. Some theatres will open the drapes to a dark white screen then wait and start the film. I think the best way is to start the film then open the curtains so you have the film showing on the drapes as they part to the screen. Same at the end close them on the last 10 seconds while the credits are still on the screen. This can be done with the auto tabs moved up a little.

larrygoldsmith on September 13, 2008 at 8:23 pm

The problem with Landmark Theatres is that they lease theatres for the most part. Some are owned. They have always “milked” their theatres, rather than “operate with showmanship”. Luxury like an operating title curtain, is not important to them. Nothing worse than going into an auditorium and staring at a blank white screen. I am sure due to downsizing for a twin cinema is the reason there is no Cinemascope screen. A theatre must have plenty of depth to accomodate this type of screen, due to visual comfort of patrons.Fox West Coast/National General Theatres ALWAYS maintained a level of showmanship that was hard to find with any other chain.

terrywade on September 13, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Larry***I think the old Fox West Coast managers that ran this once grand small movie palace would be very upset at the current condition that the California Theater is in now in 2008. Like I have said in a past note Landmark is not going to spend a penny on theatres they just lease that they don’t own. How nice If someone came in like ‘Sundance’ and put in a large curved Cinemascope screen with curtains that was once in the downstairs part of the theater. At least with all the people that have complained in the last three weeks and lost business Landmark Theaters is now back to advertising in the Cronicle again starting this past Friday with the times of all their theaters in the SF Bay Area. Thanks to true theatre managers like the Fox West Coast/NGT team at least some of us got to see true showmanship at the once grand California Theatre.

larrygoldsmith on September 13, 2008 at 3:47 pm

I would love to hear what long time ex-manager, Jim Scurlock would have to say about the current operation of this theatre. During the time he was there, it was operated by National General Theatres, later, Mann. It remained a first class house during the NGT days. Mann let it go to pot, does'nt look much better now.

kencmcintyre on October 31, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Here is a 1980 photo from the LA Public Library:

terrywade on August 11, 2007 at 9:59 am

Next time you go complain that the curtains don’t work. Wait till you hear what the manager tells you. I don’t understand why they put in such a small screen in the downstairs part. The manager says it’s because they had to move the screen up during the seismic work. It can still be enlarged on the sides. The projector is in a strange area below the old balcony. The lens looks plastic not a good image. Landmark won’t spend any $ to fix the curtains or put in a larger screen. I remember seeing with my parents in the 50’s a double bill of The King & I with Anastasia when it was a big single screen house with 4 track stereo on a huge curved cinemascope screen. No wonder people are staying home and watching Dvd’s. The California needs to bring back that showmanship experience. At least they do have some nice lights up on the side walls in the upstairs twin and use red and blue bulbs.Someone must be awake still at the CAL. With all the students going to school at UC this is a hot spot for good movies.

mlind on March 26, 2007 at 8:48 am

California Theater under construction in 1920.
View link

rkoch on May 21, 2006 at 2:14 pm

Went to an opening night after a remodel in either 1934or 35. Lovely theatre, steep balcony, excellent projection. Floyd Wright[not Geo] played the organ there for a couple of years then he went to the Golden Gate.I,myself, installed an RCA sound system{PG 142] for FWC about 1948-9 replacing the old Western Electric[ERPI] set that was there.

William on March 29, 2006 at 12:39 pm

The California Theatre was given a Skouras style remodel in the early part of 1952. The theatre reopened to the public on May 14th. 1952. During this time the theatre was operated by Fox West Coast Theatres.

cinecityposters on March 23, 2006 at 8:13 am

The kids in my West Berkeley neighborhood on Acton St. south of University went to the California often in the early 60’s. During the summer they had matinees that one could attend for a few soda bottle caps. I recall seeing The Lost World and Journey to the Center of the Earth on one such double bill. There were mimeographed programs for the matinees and I would love to find one. I’ve been looking for over 15 years. btw I can see the marquee from my office window.

gsmurph on April 19, 2005 at 1:54 pm

Perhaps it’s just some peculiarity of mine, but I actually find the two balcony theaters more “classic” than the main one(!). Did the California ever have a proscenium—-or was it one of those “open-spaced” (for lack of a better term) live theatrs? Something for a real theater historian to ponder…