Regal UA Berkeley, 90, to close after company files for bankruptcy

The closure of the 90-year-old Regal UA Berkeley at 2274 Shattuck Ave. is one of 39 planned nationwide theater closures set to take place beginning Feb. 15 after Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last September. Business Insider was the first to report Cineworld’s plans to reject Regal Cinemas leases from next month.

Legal documents obtained by Variety said monthly rent per theater increased nearly 30% from 2019 to 2022 and that the closures would save the company $22 million a year as it strives to recoup its pre-pandemic box office earnings.

However, plans to close the theater were already underway. Last August, SFGATE reported that an application submitted by San Francisco-based developer Panoramic Interests offered plans for a “partial removal of the existing commercial structure” that would allow the construction of a mixed-use apartment building of 17 floors in place of the theatre. Two hundred and thirty-nine residential units, 24 of which would be considered affordable housing, as well as a lobby and possible ground-floor cafe were part of this plan, which would preserve the theater’s ornate facade, although it unsure how much of its art deco interior will remain intact. The company purchased the property for $7 million.

The Regal UA Berkeley (then called United Artists Theatre) debuted as a single-screen theater on September 16, 1932, with a screening of David Butler’s Depression-era comedy “Down to Earth” starring Will Rogers, Irene Rich and Dorothy Jordan. Admission was 45 cents, a Mickey Mouse cartoon and Metrotone news were also shown, and among those present were Berkeley Mayor Thomas Caldecott and Bing Crosby, who reportedly rushed after a performance at the Fox in Oakland to be able to get there.

At the time, the Berkeley Daily Gazette called the opening “the biggest theatrical event in Berkeley history.”

Now the three-screen Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on College Avenue is the only remaining theater in the city, aside from the Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archive, which only show repertoire screenings.

Regal Cinemas, the second-largest movie theater chain in the United States behind AMC, has only two other theaters still in operation in the Bay Area: Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco and Jack London Square in Oakland. Across California, planned nationwide closures will also affect Regal Theaters in Costa Mesa, El Cajon, Escondido, Hemet, Los Angeles and Yorba Linda.

SFGATE has reached out to a Regal spokesperson for more information, but did not hear back at press time.

Leave a Comment