Northside Theatre

1828 Euclid Avenue,
Berkeley, CA 94709

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docpotter on June 29, 2014 at 2:52 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!!!!

slagheap on June 6, 2013 at 2:06 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.

gobears on February 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

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:

Rohauer himself has a short listing in Wikipedia.

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

cumuloquimpus on February 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm

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 on November 16, 2011 at 2:59 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.

RogerDeNault on November 16, 2011 at 11:20 am

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 on October 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm

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.

gsmurph on September 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm

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

TerryHall on January 31, 2011 at 3:54 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.

blgwc on February 20, 2009 at 11:10 am

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.

Martineaux on November 9, 2008 at 3:38 pm

What a great little oasis. The Northside, pizza, burritos, and the Cheshire Cat, and Rather Ripped Records right down the street. I used to see flicks at the University Theater in Seattle & got to talking with the owner there in the 80’s, & when he mentioned he’d had a theater in Berkely, I mentioned the Northside, & he said he’d owned that until his son or someone had gotten thumped in the overflow of an antiwar protest in Berkeley, and he bailed for Seattle. My friend Joan from Bainbridge Island worked at one of the places on Euclid, & the first time I went there, I fell in love with the building.

jordanlage on August 4, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Again, Jeff Frantzen’s recollection of the Northside jibes completely with my experience of seeing several films there in the mid-70s. Cramped, narrow theaters, with a very thrown-together feel. God forbid there had ever been a fire. So small, they were always sold out when I went. I remember one day, maybe summer of 1977, catching an early afternoon double-bill of MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER at the Strand on Market Street in San Francisco and then taking the F bus back to Berkeley (where I lived) to catch a double feature of THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER Part II. I was 14 then and could do stuff like that. Cherished, lasting moviegoing memories.

lotusgreen on June 20, 2006 at 7:47 am

i also remember northside fondly: northside theater, northside books, rather ripped records, etc. (i worked at the rialto!) was trying to remember the names of some of the other businesses right there at that time. just remembered that divali’s, the clothing store that was on telegraph for ages, had a teensy branch on euclid…. what was the name of the (great!) coffee house on hearst just west of rather ripped? what was the chinese restaurant in the back of the northside and laval’s courtyard? it’s funny—i don’t ever remember going on the other side of the street!

cinecityposters on March 23, 2006 at 3:00 pm

I have an early childhood memory of my mother dragging my sister and I to the Northside to see Three Coins in a Fountain. I remember spending a lot of time outside playing with my army men in a fountain in the patio. Those were more innocent days.

Later during my college years the Northside was also the only theater where I actually saw a cockroach climbing up the wall. Needless to say I sat in the aisle after that.

jfrentzen on May 12, 2005 at 7:43 am

The Northside was one of those moviehouses that was unique to Berkeley in the 1960s and 1970s. It seemed like an amateur operation in a lot of ways, although it played some excellent offbeat/cult and foreign films. The moviegoing experience was one of the worst even for Berkeley — uncomfortable and claustrophic auditoriums and the place smelled funny. This would be circa 1974-76. It seemed to attract hippies and was perhaps run by hippies.

berkeleyboy on January 17, 2005 at 2:09 am

The name of the original owner was William DeNault, my father. In the early fifties he had a custom stereo store in the premises; there were no other businesses in the courtyard, only apartments. With the advent of component stereo modules he found his business drying up (much as the small movie theater business did decades later). Seeing the success of the Cinema Guild on Telegraph avenue, he decided to build the theaters. By expanding into a couple of apartments and knocking down walls he eventually hollowed out the theaters.
Everything was made of second hand goods. Original seats came from a burnt out theater in Brisbane and another in Richmond where the refinery was taking over. I remember a journey to Stockton for projectors from another defunct theater.
At first Studio A (nearest to the courtyard) ran 16mm. The projectors were over the hallway that ran to Studio B, which had old monster 35mm projectors. Within a year or so both Studio A and B had the old monsters. The projectors dated back to the 1920’s and had the later Simplex sound heads bolted on (to accomodate the talkies). For the first few years the low intensity arc lamps were used, the ones with the fat uncoated carbons. Later these were replaced with the high intensity lamps.
There was no architect and hardly any contractor work. The only time I recall a contractor being used was when a steel I-beam had to be installed to replace a load-bearing wall that was removed in the initial construction. My father built the entire place (no wonder it was a bit funky!).
I started working there as a projectionist in 1957 or 1958. I was 10 or 11 years old and so short I had to stand on a wooden crate to see out of the windows to make cross-overs. The First movie I ever showed was “And God Created Woman”. To avoid paying union wages my father employed myself, my older brother and a number of my brother’s friends and a number of college students. I worked there until 1965 when I joined the Army. My father figured that since he was paying room and board, there was no reason to pay me a living wage. This became a real problem when I turned 18.
Working as a projectionist was demanding. You had to run the projectors for both theaters simultaneously, so the booth had four machines. The reels were 15-20 minutes long and the arc lamps needed maintenance after each reel. We never had first run films so what we had was often damaged, leading to film breaks. The old machinery itself was not too reliable and often needed various fixings and adjustments. The arc lamps the the rectifiers generated lots of heat and the usual temperature was somewhere around 90 degrees.
The original name was the Fine Arts. The problem was some wit would often climb up the marquee and transpose the first letters. The business was incredibly profitable in the fifties and early sixties. Distributors had these foreign and art films with almost no market in most of the country. My father could, for instance, book a Fellini film for $25 flat rate per week and gross thousands.

In the early seventies my father opened the University Theater in Seattle. Same sort of format but it never worked as well. By the early nineties it could no longer pay the bills and was closed. My father, now 90, is still alive though suffers from prostate cancer.

wordwooze on December 10, 2004 at 4:06 pm

The Northside was built in the 50s. It had two theaters side by side (studio A&B) that opened onto a courtyard that connected to Euclid via a breezeway. It originally had a marquee, but when I was involved with the Northside from 1969 to 1971 we replaced it with a plexiglass sign because it was flush to the building and too hard for people driving by to see. It was only easily visible to pedestrians across the street. Also, it was a major hassle to change movie titles on the marquee due to the steep incline of the sidewalk. There were two display cases on the university side of the breezeway for passersby on Euclid to view photos and posters of current and coming attractions. Many years after I left a storefront at the entrance of the breezeway was converted into a lobby for the theater. I don’t know exactly when the Northside closed, sometime in the late 90s I believe.

stefoscope on December 10, 2004 at 2:45 pm

Does anyone know the exact dates when this theatre opened and then closed? How about photos of it (inside and out) while in operation? I passed by this location many times as a child, in the ‘80s, and I can’t seem to remember what it looked like. Was there a formal marquee in front?

SheilaBrady on November 27, 2004 at 8:32 am

I worked at the Northside for 3 or 4 years after Jim’s stint posted above. It was a fabulous job. The organization was a great team, in the heart of hippie craziness. John also owned the Cheshire Cat, a charming little restuarant/bar next door. Both the theater and the Cat opened onto the Pizza garden of Laval’s – a local pizzeria, bar, club. The two theaters were each kind of grubby, though we sincerely made an effort to clean them. The Popcorn stand was a rolling cart that we parked by the doors of the theater, in the garden, serving to the people eating at the picnic tables as well as the movie patrons. The balmy summer evenings in Berkeley, with the slight sounds of music from Laval’s, the smell of fresh popcorn, standing around cracking jokes, ineptly playing hacky-sack, those are some of my fondest memories of my time at school at UC Berkeley.

Noah was the kid who lived upstairs. He would come down and help out with the popcorn on busy Saturday and Friday nights. Jim Rosso with his deep voice was the primo doorman, Joe Lubliner was a Yoda-like presence hovering over all of us with his benevolent spirit. Irving Lubliner was the projectionist who introduced me to the place and trained me as projectionist (we had gone to school together in Oakland) and his best friend, Peter Lisker also pulled time as projectionist. The Master projectionist was the eternally enigmatic John O'Faolin. He used to write himself notes in a strange script developed by George Bernard Shaw, and stick them all round the projection booth. I startled him one day after I had figured out what the script was and left him Other notes in this same obscure script! Anne Labriola and Nancy Makowsky were both solid citizens of the Northside Crew, sweet, generous, artisitic, funny, as was Sandy Biasotti, Joe’s decade-long girlfriend. John Armstrong managed the business, but by the time I came around (72 – 75) had mostly relgated the daily business to his coterie of friends/employees. Michael, his boyfriend, was the master mechanic. Eddie Mahoney was the funniest of the fine doormen/stand-up comics.

I happened to be on tickets one night (rather unusual for me) and we had sold out both theaters – I think it was a Friday night. I had put the little sold out sign up and had put a Kleenex box or something across the slot under the glass and was just kicking back, with the windows of the ticket booth completely filled by the backs of the people waiting to go into the theater as it was almost the double intermission. Eddie was on the door. Suddenly there was a rapping on the widow next to my head and someone on the outside was pushing a bag through the slot. I irritatedly pushed the bag back outside, peering through the glass and saying “We’re sold out!!!” The rapping continued. And then I heard the voice outside saying again and again “Put the Money in the bag!” Then I saw that the rapping came from the guy outside knocking a gun against the glass! Strangely, filled, I suppose, with that youthful sense of immortality, this mostly just irritated me, “Why the hell should I do anything this clod tells me, too?” I just wanted someone to see what was going on.

So I started to count the dollar bills out as I put them in the bag. “1, 2, 3…"
"Don’t count them!” The voice said, exasperatedly!
“Oh, OK,” I said grabbing some fives and putting them in the bag.
“Not the 5’s! The 10’s! The 20’s!"
"Oh, OK, "I said, taking the fives BACK OUT of the bag!
I was finally putting the 10’s and 20’s into the bag when something just went over the top in me. I was really pissed that this clown was making me give up all this money. so I started to grab back the money out of the bag, and his hand reached in and grabbed the bag and what was left of the money. I jumped up and ran down the long ticket booth and out through the door into the mass of waiting people.
"Thieves! Thieves!” I yelled, to my own surprise, as I tore through the crowd, Eddie, instantly in hot pursuit. Down the little alley and onto Euclid, Eddie quickly outstripped me, the two characters we were chasing clearly ahead of us. Suddenly I realized that he wasn’t fully apprised of the situation.
“Eddie! They’ve got a gun!"
"Oh shi-i-i-i-i-t!” he called back over his shoulder.
They hopped into a waiting car at the top of the block.

John Armstrong split the money I got back with me and told me to just give it to them next time.

posted by Sheila Brady 11/27/04

wordwooze on September 9, 2004 at 8:44 am

In 1969, John Armstrong and my former wife (Torene Svitil) and I purchased the Northside from the original owner, William Renault. We operated as the Northside Theatre Corporation. We all wore many hats and were involved in all aspects of running the theater, but I was was the one primarily responsible for selecting and booking the films we exhibited. Torene and I were involved with the Northside until late 1971, when we sold our interest to John, bought a houseboat, and moved to Tracy, CA so I could attend college in Stockton. During the time we operated the theater there was a virtual explosion of interest in foreign, classic, and independent films throughout the Bay Area. Many art houses opened on both sides of the bay. My personal favorite was the B. Lannes Cinema, which operated out of a basement in east Oakland and showed 3 to 4 films and numerous cartoons and vintage trailers for $1.50. It had about 15 seats. The owner was the projectionist and handed out free soda, candy, and popcorn during the last movie. Obviously he was not in it for the money.

discostu on September 1, 2004 at 10:32 am

Landmark also operated out of this theater, I worked there then. It was a blast. Probably the most fun job I ever had.

gsmurph on June 6, 2004 at 12:35 pm

The health food store at the former Northside has closed; the site is currently vacant.

gsmurph on January 24, 2004 at 1:23 pm

The Northside’s address was 1828 Euclid Avenue.