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Arts & Entertainment

Berkeley, a college town of 100,000 people, will soon have just one theater screening new films

Berkeley’s Regal UA theater at 2274 Shattuck Ave. in Downtown Berkeley, is now set to close. | Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 1932, Berkeley’s seven-screen Regal UA theater is now set to close.

Although no firm date for its demise has been announced, plans to convert 2274 Shattuck Ave. in Downtown Berkeley into a 17-story, 293-unit apartment building were revealed last summer. 

That developer has pledged to preserve the theater's Art Deco facade.

However, it’s not an impending wrecking ball that will spur the theater’s closure, but a bankruptcy. Regal Theaters announced earlier this week that it would close almost 40 cineplexes nationwide as a cost-cutting measure after parent company Cineworld declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2021. 

Three years after Covid struck, U.S. box office receipts are still down by approximately one-third from 2019, forcing the industry to take drastic measures. Since 2020, Downtown Berkeley already lost its other two movie houses, the California Theatre and the Shattuck Cinemas.

According to Berkeleyside, the Regal UA’s front-of-house employees were unaware of any closure date.

This is only the latest in a long string of closures of Bay Area movie theaters stretching back decades, since the advent of television ate into the silver screen’s entertainment dominance.

In the last few years, San Francisco has lost the AMC Van Ness, Pacific Heights’ Clay Theatre, the Empire in West Portal and Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema. The city later bestowed landmark status on the Clay.

Further, Another Planet Entertainment’s 2022 lease of Castro Theatre left many longtime cinéastes reeling, as the city’s preeminent 1920s single-screen movie palace has seen its repertory calendar dwindle to almost nothing as Another Planet prepares to convert its interior to become a live music venue.

While the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) remains a thriving repertory theater and cultural resource, the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood will soon become Berkeley's only place to see new movies.

Correction: The original version of this story said Another Planet Entertainment (APE) bought the Castro Theatre in 2021. APE leased it in 2022.