Northside Theatre

1828 Euclid Avenue,
Berkeley, CA 94709

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This narrow, funky duplex, previously known as the Art Theatre, was legendary for its showings of foreign and independent films.

It had at least several operators over the years, among them Premiere, Renaissance Rialto, and Silver Screen Amusements.

Though it continued on for many years, eventually the Northside Theatre too fell victim to the trends and closed. It has subsequently been converted to a health food store.

Contributed by Garrett Murphy

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

blgwc
blgwc on February 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm

It’s fun to read these as I managed this place for Renaissance Rialto from summer 1983 to fall 1984. It had seen better days by then, I’m afraid. I remember its distinct smell (especially theatre 2), the leak from the bathroom in the apartment above theatre 1, the torn carpet in the lobby, the student louts in the beer garden at the La Val’s next door, but it was a fun audience anyway.

TerryHall
TerryHall on January 31, 2011 at 11:54 am

Hi Jim! RIP Josef Lubliner. The Spiro T. Agnew Memorial Garlic Bread that hung on the wall in the projection booth was the crowning touch of ambiance. What larks! Working there warped my mind in a very positive direction. Apologies to our customers for the many times I had the wrong lens on when changing reels.

gsmurph
gsmurph on September 16, 2011 at 1:59 am

The Northside is now a restaurant/bar known as the PhoBar.

gobears
gobears on October 30, 2011 at 6:19 am

hey, berkeleyboy, bigwc and others with memories of the Northside, a/k/a Fine Arts. In 1959 or so Bill DeNault leased the dual closets to Raymond Rohauer, film aficionado/distributor and notorious cheat according to several accounts of his activities.

I can speak first hand to that because Rohauer hired me to run the Fine Arts during my senior year. The average field hand in the Central Valley earned more per hour than I did since the “part time” job ran up to 40 hours a week but the pay was a flat $ amount per week regardless. But I had a title.

I knew Rohauer’s successful West LA theatre, the Coronet, and his interesting programming from my days at UCLA . When he leased it from your dad he changed the name to the Fine Arts Theatre. He decided to run his eclectric collection of art films, captured German newsreels, 3rd run feature films and the like.

I knew not of his questionable record on getting control of Buster Keaton;s entire library but I was a fast learner. Part of my education included his renting The Man Who Knew Too Much, the remake of the original, this one starring Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day. It was a Cinemascope production but there was too little money in the kitty to rent the Cinemascope projection lenses as we’d done before so Rohauer ordered me to make an announcement and run the film without the special lenses! That made people 10' tall and 6" wide on the screen. Most of the skimpy audience demanded a refund but a few actually stayed to watch the entire film!

Another tactic of Rohauer’s was undercut Pauline Kael who, with her then-husband, created the Studio Guild boutique dual theatres on Telegraph Ave. a block or two from the Sather Gate entrance to Berkeley. For months they had advertised the coming exhibition of Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will,” having gotten permission from the U S State Dept. to screen the one authorized copy which had been seized at the end of WWII. This showing was eagerly awaited by studens and the public alike.

Rohauer got his mitts on a bootleg copy, illegal to possess and probably through thoroughly questionable means. A week or 2 prior to Kael’s widely advertised showing he had me put large and expensive display ads in the Daily Californian, the student campus newspaper. The ads made no mention of the Studio Guild, only built upon the long-awaited showing of Triumph, and we starting showing it the next day, for a several day run. He stole the cherry and the whipped cream from Kael’s sundae for sure.

She screamed at me as if I had anything to do with obtaining the bootleg copy. Things like filing a report with the State Dept., suing in all manner of ways, etc., knowing full well that Rohauer was the lessee of the Fine Arts and I was just a hired hand, but I was available and Rohauer wasn’t returning her calls.

And yes, I remember the old carbon-arc projectors, having to change the carbon rods as they burned down to nubbins, hopefully between showings. Constant changing of reels, the occasional splice while the audience waited, dealing with a dishonest owner, all added to the great education I got at UCB.

And La Val’s pizza was pretty good, as I recall the last taste of it I had, around 50 years ago.

RogerDeNault
RogerDeNault on November 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I worked for my father at the Northside from 1956 to 1965. I was the older brother of Berkeley Boy. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is that this is the first of the multiple cinema movie theaters, which dominate nowadays. People often give credit to Ed Landberg and Pauline Kael for building the first twin cinema across the campus at the Cinema Guild and Studio. But Bill DeNault did it a year before they did! For that he gets some extra credit (even though he’s now dead at 94). He was also responsible for getting LaVal’s Pizza in the courtyard, trying to make a destination for the courtyard.

Raymond Rohauer got in after I left in 1965. He made a deal with Bill DeNault that he never delivered on, and Bill took it back before it finally got sold to Renaissance Rialto(?). I was much amused by “gobears” stories about Raymond Rohauer, although I named it the “Northside Theater” about 1960 when someone with a warped sense humor insisted on taking “Fine Arts” off the marquee and making in “Ine Farts,” and then calling about his “humor,” over and over…

gobears
gobears on November 16, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Roger, I enjoyed your comments, particularly about La Vals.

On one specific point I must respectfully disagree: I was a senior @ UC in 1959 and that’s when I was hired by Rohauer to run the Fine Arts. In January, 1960 I had been hired by GE for my first real (non-reel) job so the 1965 date you mentioned is off a bit.

I did have some direct dealings with your Dad, principally why the rent hadn’t been paid. Rohauer was not only ethically challenged but a genuine cheapskate as well, requiring that the Fine Arts pay its own way, so he refused to put out any money from his own pocket.

While distasteful at the time Raymond Rohauer provided some interesting life’s lessons which were useful later as time went by.

cumuloquimpus
cumuloquimpus on February 5, 2013 at 5:22 am

Mr gobears has a faulty memory! I also worked for Roger Denault and Bill Denault at the Northside theater. I did not start working there until after I graduated from high school in January 1960. Mr. gobears was definitely not on the scene! Also, I worked there part time for a few years. Roger and Sue Denault pretty much ran the place for Bill Denault from about 1962-1965, and I do know others who can verify the dates! I wonder, did gobears really attend UC, or is he off by the greater part of a decade? Yes, I’m also aware of some of the rest of the history of the site, not disclosed by Roger, but none-the-less, events that make gobears' dates impossible.

gobears
gobears on February 6, 2013 at 6:13 am

Since I was both hired and quit in 1959 I was definitely NOT on the scene in January 1960. I was hired in 1959 during my senior year at UC by Raymond Rohauer who had leased the premises from Bill Denault and had renamed it the Fine Arts Theatre.

After I quit at some point Rohauer either gave back the theater to Denault or maybe Denault took it back; I doubt that Rohauer had it for the entire year of 1959 because of financial failure.

If I remember correctly Denault had an office on Shattuck in downtown Berkeley; I seem to recall that’s where I took the rent or he came to the theater to pick it up the few months I worked there. I knew his name and there was no employee at the theater by the same name so maybe you took a vacation while Rohauer briefly rented it?

Note: Rohauer’s short-lived Fine Arts had nothing to do with the Fine Arts Cinema on Shattuck which did not appear until much later.

The one good thing Rohauer did was bequeath his extensive collection of avant garde and experimental films from the 1920s and 1930s to UC’s library; you can read about the collection here:

http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pomo.html?menu=none

Rohauer himself has a short listing in Wikipedia.

As to the dates I stand by my statement and the date on my diploma!

slagheap
slagheap on June 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm

wordwooze! one evening spring of 1968 i saw “ The Good Earth ” and Leroi Jones' ( sic ) “ Dutchman ” at the B. Lannes Cinema. as for Northside Theater, went there numerous times very early seventies with a wonderful girl named Nancy Deernick – a couple of Woody Allen films, “ The Harder They Fall, ” ( Jimmy Cliff, ) and Goddard’s “ Performance, ” ( Mick Jagger. ) I lived at Toad Hall near Ridge & LaLoma. I subsequently became friends with Jerry of Northside Books. I’m very glad to have encountered this site.

docpotter
docpotter on June 29, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Seeking Bob Bonneau who working at Northside Theater in 1989-90 … if you know how to reach him please contact me docpotter at docpotter dot com …. . ‘preciate it!!!!

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