|Address||2036 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA
|Owner||The Berkeley Music Group|
|Current use||Reopening March 1st, 2016|
|Architect||James W. Plachek|
In 2013, The Berkeley Music Group was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission to renovate and operate the UC Theater as live music venue. It is scheduled for opening on March 1st, 2016.
Opened in 1917 as a first run theater, the 1,300-seat theater was acquired in 1974 by theater owner Gary Meyer as one of the first theaters—along with the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles—in his Landmark Theatres chain. The theater was named after, but had no relation to, the nearby University of California, Berkeley. The theater under Meyer showed older films, in double or triple features, generally for a single night, but sometimes for a week at a time. Along with the Rialto, Telegraph and Northside theaters in Berkeley, it was one of the main venues in the East Bay for showing both domestic and foreign film classics.
The theater closed in March 2001 when Landmark—no longer owned by Meyer—made the decision to close the theater rather than spend the reported $350,000 needed for a seismic upgrade. The theater was named a landmark by the City of Berkeley on 6 May 2002. As of early 2006, plans to convert the theater to a jazz club have been submitted to the City of Berkeley. A plan to convert it into a musical venue were proposed in 2009.
The theater was the site of the premiere of Errol Morris' first film Gates of Heaven (1978), an event at which filmmaker Werner Herzog ate his shoe before the audience in fulfillment of a bet made with Morris. This event was recorded in the documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980) by local filmmaker Les Blank. In 1984, Cicely Tyson spoke at an event in her honor at the theater that was hosted by Northern California Women in Film and TV. In an interview, Tom Hanks mentioned that the theater was one of the things that spurred his interest in film. Linwood Dunn gave a talk on the special effects behind King Kong for a showing of the film. A live orchestra would play for select silent films.
For 22 years, it was locally famous for its late-night showings of the cult film Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). The ongoing audience participation group, which eventually went on to recreate the film live on stage at the theater under the name Indecent Exposure, was one of the earliest, and best well known, of such groups until 1995 when they disbanded, seamlessly, the cast of Barely Legal took over and is still performing Rocky Horror to this day.
- Michelson, Herb. Cicley Tyson 'Best Black Actress' Still Fights Color Line in Search for Roles. The Sacramento Bee. November 1984
- UC Theater at Slims Presents
- article on James Plachek and his other buildings in the East Bay
- UC Theater at Cinema Treasures
- Berkeley Landmarks: UC Theater, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association showing exterior photo of theater, with Sweetheart of the Doomed (1917) starring Louise Glaum, on marquee