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CinéArts, a haven for local cinephiles, permanently shutters

Original post made on Jun 29, 2021

CinéArts at Palo Alto Square, a movie theater that for decades has been a popular destination for local film lovers, will not be reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic, the theater's parent company has confirmed.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 29, 2021, 9:44 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2021 at 9:52 am

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What a shame to lose this theatre that showed thoughtful films for grown ups. I hope another film theatre group can be found to fill the need at this locale. We will miss CineArts!

Posted by jhskrh
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2021 at 11:17 am

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This closure was expected, not a surprise. A large 2 screen theater does not pencil out. For Palo Altans who dare leave their leafy enclave there is a full-service cinema complex off of San Antonio Road and another on Shoreline. I know, south of the border; Mon Dieu!!

Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 29, 2021 at 11:40 am

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Miriam Palm is absolutely right. With the Guild and Park theaters in Menlo Park long gone, where will discriminating local cinephiles go for high-quality films lacking mass market appeal?

Obviously, 20-screen complexes generate far more cash per hour, but you couldn't pay me to bother with the wares they peddle, let alone struggle in their mosh pit parking facilities.

I went to far more films at the above three theaters over the years than anywhere else, both for quality films and for the Jewish Film Festival.

Will the Aquarius step in to fill the breach at least partway, I wonder? Or maybe someone else?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 29, 2021 at 11:41 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Put in another theater as required. I'm really tired of hearing how "things don't pencil out" if it's something that serves residents. How does one quantify the value of good independent thought-provoking movies, good music in town, good independent retailers, beautiful unique architecture, etc.?

We're becoming a sterile boring office park with a mass market orientation that makes us essentially the same as Des Moines, Iowa, except for the real estate prices.

Let's hope City Council can force the issue so a theater stays there AS REQUIRED.

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2021 at 11:50 am

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Yes - a film theater use there is required. Not a specific operator. Film venues are essential to any city, and ones that show better films for Palo Alto tastes.
Mayor DuBois and Staff must jump into this and insist that the theater remains.

Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2021 at 11:54 am

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If I recall the theater was part of some public benefit the people who owned the building originally needed to include as a variance to code. We held their feet to the fire the last time they tried it, but of course owners of commercial spaces want to maximize their profits and Cinemark would not pay as much as, say, another real estate office or stockbrokerage.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2021 at 12:27 pm

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So the landlord pulled a fast one to avoid a reaction by the public. Timing is sublime with the CC getting notification after the equipment was removed from the theater.
Palo Alto is diminished without the film festivals, independent films and opera. The city needs to enforce the requirement that a cinema hold tenancy. Please write the CC to
voice your support for a required theater.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2021 at 12:28 pm

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This is a gem and the fact that it is not going to reopen is another nail in the coffin of what society is becoming around here.

CineArts showed the types of movies that could not be found anywhere else. Unfortunately they did not change their titles often enough to make many of us go often. I can remember the same two films being shown for weeks. It was probably a case of the management decisions to make it an unattractive option, and that has to be part of the story.

We are not all fans of the big blockbusters! Hopefully something can be salvaged and we can get our great movies shown here by a new management company.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2021 at 12:34 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

It's a requirement. Our passive city staff and Council are not doing their job enforcing the requirement. There seems to be a real problem with enforcement of development requirements of various kinds that looks like a pattern of behavior.

The owner needs to reduce the rent to maintain the agreed upon requirement so that the required business "pencils out". He can make his handsome profits off the offices that he was allowed to build in exchange for the required theatre he agreed to provide. Earning a profit on the theatre was not part of the deal he struck with the city.

We used to have a staff and Council that understood Comprehensive Planning. The problem starts at the top.

More jobs, more housing in a cultural desert. Not so nice for anyone...not workers, not residents. This is very short-sighted of developers. The high prices they enjoy today depend on Palo Alto being rich in resources that support a vibrant work, play, live environment--excellent schools, cultural opportunities, lovely parks. A life that centers solely around work defeats creativity (the Silicon Valley magic sauce). We risk losing what makes this place--Silicon Valley, not just Palo Alto, vibrant.

Council, take note. WHY didn't you know about this until it was too late to do anything this time?

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2021 at 1:01 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Yes, our city is becoming a business park. It really is sad being so close to a world-class University and losing everything that makes a city interesting.

Posted by Orville Bentley
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2021 at 1:29 pm

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A lot of noteworthy movies were shown at this theater...the first time I went there was to see 'The Wall' by Pink Floyd right after smoking a bowl.

Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 29, 2021 at 1:54 pm

Michael O. is a registered user.

Palo Alto is becoming an office park? It's been an office park since Palo Alto and Stanford made it an office park in 1951. Web Link

I'm really sad to see this theater go but it seems to me mostly an unsustainable business. Even post-pandemic, most people will be watching new releases at home. The average TV is now 50", large enough to make going to the theater a second choice. Mandating a theater would kind of be like mandating a stable would have been 80 years ago.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 29, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Michael O, is that what they're teaching in high school these days -- promise the city anything, get what you want and then break all your promises?

All the more reason why we need independent thought-provoking movies. NOT mass market shoot'em-up garbage where language and characterization don't matter since they're selling though to a global market.

Posted by jhskrh
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2021 at 4:17 pm

jhskrh is a registered user.

Read this sentence out loud.... "Film venues are essential to any city, and ones that show better films for Palo Alto tastes."

How obnoxious. What exactly are Palo Alto tastes? Arrogance is not a good look.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Jun 29, 2021 at 6:04 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2021 at 9:38 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

What a shame. I saw Pink Floyd "The Wall" there too. I don't remember "smoking a bowl" but no comment on what I was doing at a Pink Floyd concert or any other rock concert back in the day. Good times!

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2021 at 6:49 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"How obnoxious. What exactly are Palo Alto tastes? Arrogance is not a good look."

What's arrogant about freedom of choice? The globalization of the movie industry has made it more profitable to dub violent films with robots into 100 different languages for worldwide distribution to teen-aged boys than to make quality films suitable for adults.

Posted by Dana Clarkson
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 30, 2021 at 7:07 am

Dana Clarkson is a registered user.

> What exactly are Palo Alto tastes?

Just guessing but compared to other Santa Clara County cities, Palo Altans tend to be more cultured and supposedly liberal in their views.

Palo Alto is cognescenti-ville where fine dining, exclusive shopping, intellectualism, and quality entertainment are treasured and pursued...unlike in Alviso or Gilroy.

Of course there are some provincial, petty and conservative/reactionary mindsets in Palo Alto as well...just like there are probably a few intellectuals to be found in Alviso and Gilroy.

Posted by Petra Karenter
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 30, 2021 at 7:42 am

Petra Karenter is a registered user.

These comments are so amusing! Get a grip, Palo Altans! You are so self-unaware.

If you need the kind of film-fare that these theatres (occasionally) offered, just get a subscription to the CRITERION CHANNEL for $100/year (equivalent of five visits for two at PAlo Alto Square). You’re welcome!

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 30, 2021 at 8:41 am

eileen is a registered user.


Believe it or not, some people go to the theatre as a SOCIAL EVENT!
A movie and outdoor dining is a great way to spend time with friends.

I think you need to get a grip and come out of your basement.

No charge for the therapy session,
Your welcome.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2021 at 8:53 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Petra Karenter, who says you can't have both the Criterion Channel and CineArts where you can meet friends for a movie AND dinner?

You must lead a sad and lonely life to think those 2 are mutually exclusive. Or are you also opposed to dining out after a movie? too?

Some people like opera, some people like rock and some people like country and some people like all three -- not everyone has to live YOUR way. That's not "amusing;" that's the height of arrogance for you to sit in judgment on others

Posted by Peter Christian
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 30, 2021 at 8:55 am

Peter Christian is a registered user.

- If you need the kind of film-fare that these theatres (occasionally) offered, just get a subscription to the CRITERION CHANNEL for $100/year (equivalent of five visits for two at PAlo Alto Square). You’re welcome.

Not quite the watching Turner Classics at home rather than going to the Stanford Theater.

Movie-going (to a theater) is a different experience than simply movie watching (at home) but we enjoy doing both as each format has its advantages.

As far as Palo Alto being 'cognescenti-ville' that is debatable as many 'cognescenti' visit Palo Alto from other areas to dine and shop.

To place all (or most) Palo Alto residents under this particular category is a bit of a stretch as PA has its share of clods.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2021 at 9:07 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Now it seems that the choice of movies is becoming political.

Is it really only because Palo Altans tend to be liberal that they can enjoy going out for the evening to watch a thoughtful movie?

Arrogance personified.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 30, 2021 at 6:45 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Could the owners want to use the airspace above the current one story cinema to build an office block on that site? Looks like their lawyers have advised the owners they have a good chance of winning a lawsuit that under more recent codes providing a cinema use as a public benefit is no longer required. A condition negotiated with the city in return for permission to build the zone-busting development in the first place.

Step one, get rid of current cinema operator. Claim that it is no longer possible to operate a cinema as a public benefit in that location. Threaten to sue the city.

Step two, apply to city to build a new office block and use the threat of the lawsuit try to vacate the public benefit requirement. Good try, but if not successful,

Step three, negotiate with the city for permission to replace the existing one story building with an office block and in return offer to provide a different public benefit, such as a child care center which would enhance their office leases.

Posted by Marie
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2021 at 1:51 pm

Marie is a registered user.

This is the fourth time Palo Alto Square has attempted to eliminate a cinema at Palo Alto Square. The last three times, citizens intervened, reminding the city administration that a theatre is the only approved use of that space. The city council at the time, made it clear to Palo Alto Square owners, that no other use would be approved. I hope the current city council will also enforce the agreement approving the planned community status for Palo Alto Square, that included a movie theatre.

My understanding is that the original developers offered to include a movie theatre as an inducement for the city council to approve the planned community exceptions to zoning. The city accepted that offer. There is no lack of clarity as to what is allowed in this space. There is only the city administration, which each time, has tried to allow the owners to evade their responsibility. This was not just a "map." It was explicitly included in the application for the planned community.

I urge the city council to continue to enforce the agreement and not allow any other use of this space except as a movie theatre. The vast profits from this development certainly can afford a subsidy for this community benefit. There certainly isn't any other benefit from this development from the community. Why would anyone support allowing the latest owners of Palo Alto Square to evade the agreement? Surely they were aware of this agreement when they purchased the property.

It's too bad that the city administration over and over again, has allowed Palo Alto Square to try to abrogate the agreement. It is too bad that Palo Alto Weekly has not done its due diligence to document the original agreement. All they have to do is check their own archives. We are fortunate that Palo Alto citizens remember the issues, and that the City Council has always responsibly required Palo Alto Square to fulfill its obligations.

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2021 at 5:16 pm

Me 2 is a registered user.

Well, we finally have something else other than a bowling alley for long time residents to lament.

Oh, change is so hard. (sniff)

Posted by K in MP
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 2, 2021 at 10:20 am

K in MP is a registered user.

I guess I too have finally gotten to the age when I can look back fondly at all the Palo Alto icons that have moved on since my childhood in Palo Also: The Varsity, the original Old Pro, Liddicoats, Don's Hobby Shop, Palo Alto Sport and Toy, Baskin-Robbins - the list goes on and on.

Do I miss riding my bike to PA Square for a movie? Sure do - and all the other things we did "back in the day".

But that's ok - now I make new memories with my teenage sons that they will look back on (hopefully) fondly - Little League games at HBP, fishing at Foothills Park, kite flying at Bedwell-Bayfront park, riding their bikes through downtown MP after school - all those good things that make Palo Alto and my "new" (well, 30 years new now) hometown Menlo Park so special and unique.

We are fortunate to live here in California (even with the crazy liberal tilt), and even more blessed to live on the Peninsula, and oh-so-amazingly-lucky to be able to live in Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

So, count your blessings if you are reading this from a home in PA or MP, pause for a moment of silence for CineArts, and go make some new memories with your family.

Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2021 at 12:14 am

maguro_01 is a registered user.

It's noticeable that younger people sit in the back in film theaters for several years now. They are used to much smaller home size screens or even cell phone size and don't like the more immersive theater experience.

Anyway, we might recall that many, if not most, US markets have collapsed into oligopoly. Film making and distribution certainly fit that description.

I can recall going to films, one a year, from the Italian and French directors, Bergman, Kurosawa, Ray,...... Well they aren't around of course and Woody Allen is being cancelled by people who need a middle class mob to join. It's beneath them to join the largest mob these days. Say, how about an Allen retrospective with $10 admission and $10 to demonstrate? Sell popcorn and drinks to all. That could work - it might even 'pencil in'.

But there are new generations of real talent almost everywhere with newer, cheaper, technology but they won't develop if they can't be seen. Could PA Square do a mini-Sundance a few times a year? A tie to a department at Stanford, SCU, SJS, etc? Small markets and income streams but enough of them?

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