California Theatre

2113 Kittredge Street,
Berkeley, CA 94704

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Showing 1 - 25 of 46 comments

stevenj on June 1, 2022 at 9:13 am

A proposal to build “approximately 15 stories” of new housing behind the theater’s facade cleared an early hurdle this month.

An article in Berkeleyside Here

jedleland on March 11, 2022 at 7:51 pm

The California Theatre, a valuable community resource for film and the arts, closed in October 2021, but we’re working to see that it doesn’t have to stay that way.

I managed The Cal for 18 years, and have joined an effort by the Art Deco Society of California and community supporters to preserve the building. A hearing for awarding it landmark status is scheduled with the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission for April 7.

In addition, a Friends of The Cal group has begun to organize a campaign to encourage Berkeley’s City Council members to take an active role, with the community, to find a way to bring this important cultural destination back to life.

Please send letters of support to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the City Council to help our effort.

Find details and links making it easy to take part at:

You may join the Friends of The Cal Theatre Group on Facebook at:

And sign our petition at:

Please pass this information along to anyone you know who might be interested.


jwmovies on March 4, 2022 at 1:52 am

According to Mick laSalle film critic for SFChronicle, there may be smore lives in this Cat!

There talk around the bay and Berkeley of several options: UC(live venue), Esquire(repurposed IMAX), Mission(revamp via Alamo) or indepepent (think Santa Cruz 9 or Campbell Pruneyard 7). Whatever option they need at least 1 elevator! That balcony is extemely steep! Yikes! 😘😘

stevenj on October 25, 2021 at 5:02 pm

Here is a link to an SFGate story about the closing of the California:


dallasmovietheaters on October 21, 2021 at 7:34 pm

The California Theatre closed March 16, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 21, 2021, Landmark Theatre Circuit announced the closure would be permanent making the March 16, 2020 date as its final date of operation by the circuit.

walterk on October 2, 2018 at 9:18 am

The California was one of three Berkeley theatres acquired by Fox when it took over West Coast Theatres Inc. in early 1928, the other two being the UC Theatre and the Campus Theatre.

One early action Fox took was to mothball the California, it went dark for just over 29 months after the May 5th presentation of Norma Talmadge starring in “The Dove”. That day’s Berkeley Gazette carried two items from the California Theatre, one announcing the final showing of “The Dove” that evening and mentioning “tonight will be that last opportunity to see a show at the California Theatre.” The second, also in relation to The Dove, mentioned that “The California Theater closes its doors tonight for the summer”, which it had never done in the past. There were no ads for shows at the California from this date until October 7, 1930, when an advertisement announcing the “Grand Opening of Berkeley’s New Fox California Theatre” on October 10 appeared.

The Berkeley Gazette featured an 8-page section in its October 9 issue with numerous items written by the Fox publicity department. According to one of these, the original California was “torn down, a sacrifice to progress”, which was not the case, it was seriously gutted and reworked, which included a new facade. The remodel took 8 months and was said to cost $250,000. The original Greek Revival style of the auditorium was replaced with a design theme billed as “A Symphony in Modernism”. It was designed by the Los Angeles firm of (Clifford) Blach and (Floyd) Sanbery, Architects and Engineers.

The auditorium was described as “Neutral walls flowing into a proscenium arch distinguished for its block motif presented in shades of buff and desert sand. Organ Grills of pale gold stand out in silhouette against a background wherein pastel greens rose and browns blend in conventional pattern. Auditorium ceilings repeat the design and the rose note is accented again in richly upholstered seats of plush and leather”. The stage curtain was described as “shimmering orange velvet with its border and floral pattern of royal blue. Silver sequins and multi-colored jewels lend added brilliance”.

A two-sentence item mentioned that the California had a “new and magnificent $25,000 Wurlitzer pipe organ”, the console of which was “finished in Roman gold” with “raised fleur-de-lis designs on either side that contribute further to its modernistic and individual appearance.”

I checked the Wurlitzer opus list to get details, there is no record of a new organ being installed at the California in 1930, and all instruments installed that year are accounted for.

The venue was however home to a Wurlitzer, opus 85. Moved there in the spring of 1917, Opus 85 had originally been installed the previous year in this theatre in San Francisco. It was a style 3 Sp with a two manual console and 7 ranks. Two additional ranks were added when it moved to Berkeley. Opus 85 wound up going to the nearby town of Vallejo in 1954, where parts were used in restoring opus 1833.

The feature opening night was the Paramount romance comedy “Follow Thru”. Also on the bill were a Mickey Mouse cartoon, a talking dog comedy, newsreel, travelogue and an organ concert by Floyd Wright.

Added to the photo page are a 1914 architect’s drawing of the original T & D Theatre, a photo taken during the 1930 renovation, a circa 1932 photo of the recently remodeled Fox California, and two of the 1930 opening night ads. My thanks to the Berkeley Historical Society for the scans of the photos, also for aiding me in obtaining the scan of the architect’s drawing.

rivest266 on August 13, 2018 at 8:39 am

This reopened as the California Cinema Center on April 9th, 1976. Ad in photo section.

walterk on February 12, 2018 at 6:01 pm

This was the third Berkeley theatre built by Messrs. James Turner and Fred Dahnkan, the previous being the Berkeley Theatre (1911) and the Varsity Theatre (1912). They divested of both these venues before opening the T&D.

The last show under its original name took place September 16, 1923, a double bill featuring “White Shoulders” with Katherine MacDonald, and “A Noise in Newboro” featuring Viola Dana. An ad in the previous day’s Berkeley Gazette announced that afterwards the house would be closed for “extensive alterations”, reopening the following Saturday, September 22, and that its name thereafter would be the California.

The following Friday an announcement ran in the Gazette that the opening was to be delayed until the following Wednesday, September 26. The opening night’s feature was “Within The Law”, starring Norma Talmadge.

Ads for the final show, subsequent delay, and re-opening night now in the photo section, along with two ads announcing the 1914 opening.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 19, 2015 at 12:19 pm

gabrielbarr: An earlier comment by long-time Cinema Treasure member William says that the California theater got a Skouras-style remodeling in 1952. That was probably when the current marquee was installed.

There might have been an earlier remodeling under the Skouras regime (major theaters in the chain would get an updating every few years, and the California would have been due for one in the late 1930s or early 1940s) but the pre-war marquees tended to be more elaborate than the one on the California, so it is most likely a post-war creation, and thus most likely installed as part of the 1952 project.

gabrielbarr on April 19, 2015 at 7:06 am

Great history! Does anyone know when the marquee was made? It looks like it is not from the 20’s or 30’s. It looks newer. Just my guess.

lateslice on January 16, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Hi, i work at the Cal.To answer a question from above;the two theaters upstairs seat 185, and the mainfloor is 600 capacity.

chronicler on November 20, 2014 at 5:29 pm

The news that West Coast Theaters acquired the T & D chain first appeared in the Oakland Tribune on 20 March 1913:

“For a consideration of $1,675,000 the West Coast Theaters, Inc., a Southern California concern in which Sol Lesser, the Gore brothers, Adolph Ramish and Joseph Schenck are interested, took over the T. & D. holdings from Mrs. Hattie Turner, widow of James Turner, and Fred Dahnken, founders of the circuit.”

chronicler on November 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm

The T&D Theatre was renamed the California later than April 1923. It was still advertised as the T & D on 30 June 1923. By the beginning of October, it was the California.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 25, 2014 at 4:50 pm

chronicler is correct. I suspect that the mistaken opening year of 1920 was taken from this photo information page from the Berkeley Public Library, which is titled “California Theatre under construction” and dated 1920. It is wrong about both.

The parked automobile in the foreground is clearly from the later 1920s, and if you zoom in on the license plate you can see “CAL 30” on it, so the photo probably dates from 1930, and certainly not from 1920. Zooming in on the sign at the lower right corner of the theater you can read most of it. It says “This Theatre is being completely rebuilt for Fox West Coast Theatres.” William Fox did not take over West Coast Theatres and add his name to it until the very late 1920s. The photo clearly depicts a remodeling that took place around that time.

The T & D chain became part of West Coast Theatres in 1923. The name T & D Theatre appears in the Berkeley Daily Gazette as late as March, 1923. The name California Theatre appears in the paper in May, 1923. This indicates that West Coast Theatres probably took control of this house early that year and changed the name soon after.

chronicler on October 25, 2014 at 12:32 pm

This theatre was built in 1913, not in 1920.

Year: 1913 Building permit #: 3418 Address: 2115 Kittredge Street Owners: Turner & Dahnken Architect: A.W. Cornelius Contractor: Kidder & McCullough

mlind on January 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

At one point it was called the Fox California.

Mikeyisirish on December 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm

A few July 2012 photos can be seen here, here, here and here.

MagicLantern on March 1, 2011 at 4:52 am

Anyone got a breakdown of number of seats in each auditorium?

kpdennis on April 25, 2009 at 1:41 pm

The Cal as it appeared in spring 1996:
View link

kencmcintyre on January 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Here is a photo showing the opening of Fahrenheit 9/11 in June 2004:

larrygoldsmith on September 15, 2008 at 10:14 am

Terry, Me again. In regards to proper title curtain cues, at the beginning of a film usually the “Trademark” is shown first, curtain should remain closed during this time. There usually a short dark period right after trademark is shown, this is the curtain open cue. If film preludes the trademark the curtain cue would be immediate.NEVER should a curtain open on a blank screen, that’s why there are curtain cues. The end of a film will show the curtain cue with a small “splash” at top right of screen, which is not the same as a changeover cue. Also, curtain should be closed and reopened if previews are shown before feature showing feature trademark on curtain. In the old days this format was followed, if the projectionist was well seasoned. Fox West Coast Theatres, NGC Theatres used to monitor to make sure this curtain procedure was followed.

terrywade on September 14, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Hi**The downstairs theater at the California is the same size as it was before in the 50’s. They only twined the balcony into two small cinemas. They put in a smaller flat screen and moved it up a little. The curtains are still on the sides but they don’t work,the motor is broke. Landmark does have curtains that work across the street at another cinema they run. They have them only because the original owner had put them in. Every time I go to the Landmark Albany or the California I always tell them If you can’t fix your curtains then at least put some blue, green or red lights on the boring white screen. I watch people come in 20 minutes before the film starts and look at a white screen. Sometimes music will be playing or you may be lucky to see video adds run with the house lights up to wash all the add image off the screen. How nice If the California got the motor fixed and put in some blue lights on the curtain like the old days. Some projection managers at Landmark don’t even know the proper way to work the curtains they do have. Some theatres will open the drapes to a dark white screen then wait and start the film. I think the best way is to start the film then open the curtains so you have the film showing on the drapes as they part to the screen. Same at the end close them on the last 10 seconds while the credits are still on the screen. This can be done with the auto tabs moved up a little.

larrygoldsmith on September 13, 2008 at 8:23 pm

The problem with Landmark Theatres is that they lease theatres for the most part. Some are owned. They have always “milked” their theatres, rather than “operate with showmanship”. Luxury like an operating title curtain, is not important to them. Nothing worse than going into an auditorium and staring at a blank white screen. I am sure due to downsizing for a twin cinema is the reason there is no Cinemascope screen. A theatre must have plenty of depth to accomodate this type of screen, due to visual comfort of patrons.Fox West Coast/National General Theatres ALWAYS maintained a level of showmanship that was hard to find with any other chain.

terrywade on September 13, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Larry***I think the old Fox West Coast managers that ran this once grand small movie palace would be very upset at the current condition that the California Theater is in now in 2008. Like I have said in a past note Landmark is not going to spend a penny on theatres they just lease that they don’t own. How nice If someone came in like ‘Sundance’ and put in a large curved Cinemascope screen with curtains that was once in the downstairs part of the theater. At least with all the people that have complained in the last three weeks and lost business Landmark Theaters is now back to advertising in the Cronicle again starting this past Friday with the times of all their theaters in the SF Bay Area. Thanks to true theatre managers like the Fox West Coast/NGT team at least some of us got to see true showmanship at the once grand California Theatre.