Elmwood Theatre

2966 College Avenue,
Berkeley, CA 94705

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Showing 1 - 25 of 33 comments

rivest266 on August 5, 2018 at 9:43 am

This reopened as Elmwood on June 26th, 1947. Grand opening ad posted.

chronicler on December 14, 2017 at 1:59 pm

I checked George King in Berkeley building permits and city directories. He was actually George F. King and designed quite a number of buildings—both residential and commercial—in Berkeley.

chronicler on December 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Joe Vogel, the Alameda Theater was designed by George E. King, according to the Oakland Tribune of 21 July 1912. I uploaded an image of the article to the Rialto Theater page.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 14, 2017 at 11:04 am

chronicler: Thanks for the response and additional information. The mis-attribution of some of Dufour’s work to Cornelius has me wondering if the Rialto Theatre (first Alameda Theatre) in Alameda might also be mis-attributed. Cinema Treasures lists Cornelius as the architect of the Rialto, but the facade bears a strong resemblance to the Elmwood’s, and I can easily picture them being the work of the same designer.

There is a scan of an architect’s sketch of the Alameda on the Rialto’s photo page, but it has no name on it, nor is the source of the photo given, though it is probably from either a theater trade journal or one of the architectural journals of the period. I’ll see if I can find it on the Internet.

chronicler on December 13, 2017 at 11:03 pm

I neglected to say that D.M. Etter filled out the permit application and signed it.

chronicler on December 13, 2017 at 10:59 pm

Joe Vogel, I found no way to edit my previous comment, so I had no choice but to delete it and start over.

In answer to your questions, the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project usually obtains its information from the landmark application submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission when a building is nominated. As it happens, many of these landmark applications were written decades ago, when research materials were not as readily available as they are now, and therefore contain basic errors. The Strand Theater is the fifth such case I discovered in the course of my research. I’ve initiated a discussion with the City to develop a procedure for correcting such errors.

The building permits we have at the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) are scans of microfilms that the City of Berkeley made many years ago from the actual paper permits. We salvaged the microfilms when the City disposed of them, and they’re an invaluable resource.

Permit #3865, issued on 20 June 1914, lists William Dufour as the designer of the Strand Theater and D.M Etter as the builder. Both shared the same business address, which happened to be Dufour’s real estate office at 2326 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda.

chronicler on December 13, 2017 at 10:39 pm

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Strand was not designed by Albert W. Cornelius. The building permit pulled on 20 June 1914 listed William Dufour as the architect, although Dufour was a realtor and sometime contractor. He probably farmed out the design, although most likely not to a well-known architect like Cornelius.

Nor was Alexander Aimwell Cantin the sole remodeling architect. The 1946 alteration permit lists his son, A. Mackenzie Cantin, as well as the father, as architect.

Information about the Cantins is available here: https://archives.ced.berkeley.edu/collections/cantin-alexander-mackenzie

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 11, 2017 at 3:12 pm

More accurate information can hardly be considered bad news for this web site. However, it might be bad news for the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project, which names Cornelius as the architect. Plaques, unlike words on a web page, are costly to replace. Unfortunately, the BHPP page doesn’t give a source for its claim.

I’m not familiar with the form of Berkeley’s building permits from this period, so I do have a couple of questions. A number of east bay buildings are attributed to Dufour as architect, but he was also a builder. Was his company listed on this theater project’s permit as builder? Is the permit the actual form filled out by the person applying for it, or is it an abstract prepared by a clerk in the city office?

SeanGSharp on February 26, 2016 at 10:52 am

Thank you! I’ll contact them.

Actually, the Nickelodeon Show will be in the afternoon at 3:00pm. The BAMPFA site has the info.

walterk on February 26, 2016 at 10:38 am

Sean, the photo comes from the Berkeley Historical Society, you can contact them here. I wish I could make your show, but I’m working that night.

SeanGSharp on February 26, 2016 at 9:46 am

Joe, any chance of getting a higher resolution scan of this photo? Am doing a re-creation of a nickelodeon-theater performance at the Pacific Film Archive on March 6 and would like to use this photo in the show. Thank you.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 26, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Scott Neff asked if this theater ever had a sign displaying its name when it was the Strand. This PDF file has a photo of the house with the name Strand prominently displayed on the marquee. The caption dates the photo to 1915, but it has to be later. The truck and partial auto visible date from the 1920s.

The name Strand also appears on a sign above the doors in the ca.1917 photo I uploaded to the photo section a few months ago, but it’s partly hidden by the flag, and is barely readable in any case. Both photos show some of the architectural detail that was part of Albert Cornelius’s original 1914 design, most of which was probably removed in Alexander Cantin’s 1940s remodeling, but perhaps even earlier.

paulnelson on May 25, 2014 at 2:09 am

Great neon and entire marquee is impressive. Tile work is also lovely and box office.

Chris1982 on May 24, 2014 at 8:44 pm

The Strand was listed as open as early as 1926.

Mikeyisirish on June 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm

A few 2012 photos can be seen here and here.

gsmurph on April 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Apparently that vertical was removed at some point during (or at least no later than) the mid-‘60s, for there was none to be found after that.

bmsinmd on March 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm

It had, I believe, a verticle marquee saying Elmwood. I used to deliver papers in the area [berkeley Gazette] in the mid-50’s, go in for movies occasionally. Two that I recall were Diabolique and The Wages of Fear, both b&w French movies. I made a little fork thingy out of wire coat hanger that I slid under the Exit door, then twisted it and pulled the door open to sneak in free. I hope I was not the cause of the Elmwood’s demise. The place was a wonderful fixture of the Elmwood neighborhood on College Avenue.

gsmurph on November 13, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Not sure if it did as the Strand (as the Elmwood, its name was most often seen at the top of the movie display cases), but it definitely has “Elmwood” on both sides of the marquee as of very recently!

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on July 17, 2009 at 10:31 am

Did this place EVER have a sign displaying its name?

kencmcintyre on May 4, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Here is a November 1951 ad from the Oakland Tribune:

kencmcintyre on April 12, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Here is a discussion of the renovation after the fire in 1988:

gsmurph on September 4, 2005 at 11:24 am

The Elmwood is up and running again, and its function should (obviously) be “Movies.”

gsmurph on August 23, 2005 at 11:13 pm

Good news—-the Elmwood reopens tonight (August 24), newly remodeled and upgraded!!!

gsmurph on May 29, 2005 at 9:53 am

According to a memo posted on the ticket booth by the Elmwood Theater foundation and the operator, San Carlos Cinemas, flooding from a adjacent property last fall severely damagd the main auditorium’s seats, flooring and concrete base, necessating their removal and replacement. In addition, changes in the city requirements for masonry structures that necessated seismic retrofitting, coupled with delays involving insurance, permits and construction issues have resulted in a longer than expected closure for the theater. The foundation and San Carlos' projected date for reopening the Elmwood (at least as of this writing) is July 2005.

mlind on December 3, 2004 at 9:27 am

It was an art house in the mid-late 60’s. I remember seeing the French film A Man and a Woman there. It played forever. Some friends who didn’t have a car lived a block away and complained that the whole time they lived there (9 months), the Elmwood only showed that film.