‘Absolutely devastated’: Community reacts to closing of Shattuck Cinemas

photo of shattuck cinema
Mitzi Perez/Staff
Shattuck Cinemas, a staple of Downtown Berkeley known for its diverse showings, is closing its doors permanently.

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Downtown Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinemas will be shutting its doors Wednesday after 34 years of service, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

Shattuck Cinemas, which is owned by Landmark Theatres, is closing due to the property owner’s redevelopment plans, according to Landmark Theatres spokesperson Margot Gerber. Downtown Berkeley will be left with only one movie theater.

Many community members expressed disappointment about the theater’s closing.

“I was devastated,” said East Bay filmmaker Jack McDermott in an email. “I’ve gone there all my life and they have always shown great, independent films that very few theaters in the Bay Area would show.”

McDermott said his most special memory of Shattuck Cinemas was when he hosted the premiere of “Satan’s Servant,” a feature film he co-directed in his senior year of high school, at the theater.

The night of the premiere was “unforgettable,” McDermott said, recalling he was surrounded by friends and family. He called the theater’s closing “a huge loss” for the community and expressed hope that remaining theaters will show the types of films shown at Shattuck Cinemas.

Dina Afkhampour said she was “sad and concerned” about the loss of cinemas, adding that the closure is a “loss of culture.”

Afkhampour noted the theater was an essential place for social interaction. She reflected on watching “Waiting for Guffman” with a group of friends, describing the experience as “formative.”

“What are we passing on? What are we leaving to the next generations?” Afkhampour said in an email.

Campus alum Lauren Miller echoed McDermott’s sentiments, saying they were “absolutely devastated.” Miller called the theater a landmark of Berkeley, describing it as an indispensable part of the downtown culture.

Upon hearing the news of the theater’s closing, Miller said they immediately visited the theater to watch “Pleasure” with their wife and to say goodbye. Miller added that they got a drink at Lot 68, the theater bar, and cried while recounting memories.

“It was clear that everyone in the theater was there for the same reason: to bid farewell to one of our best loved friends,” Miller said in an email.

According to Miller, other viewers attended for the same reason, with one attendee reminiscing to their partner about the summer they “fell in love with movies” at Shattuck Cinemas.

Filmmaker Bianca Beyrouti said she started visiting the theater 15 years ago, when she was a campus undergraduate. She encouraged people to support local independent theaters by viewing films in-person, taking advantage of remote viewing opportunities and purchasing memberships.

“This closure is both a huge personal and community loss,” Beyrouti said in an email. “The Shattuck Cinemas closure is another unnecessary casualty of both a local development trend that makes small movie theaters especially vulnerable and of a larger national neglect of the arts.”

Contact Victor Corona at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @victorcorona__.