Letter to the El Cerrito City Council & Redevelopment Agency

To: Chairman Bill Jones and members of the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency
CC: Scott Hanin, Lori Trevino

Friends of the Cerrito Theater would like to commend the Redevelopment Agency/City Council for the determination and speed with which it has worked to ensure continuation of programming at the historic Cerrito Theater.

Friends fully supports suggested changes outlined in the city’s request for proposals from would-be operators, specifically the need for a greater variety of programming, more family programming, longer hours (matinees, we presume), better use of the It Club One and Two, and the expanded focus on building a sense of community.

We also strongly back the city’s desire for a high standard of building maintenance, to ensure that the Cerrito Theater retains its historic, architectural and structural integrity (and that the neon remains fully functional).

Friends doesn’t want to back any particular proposal (and at this writing hasn’t seen the proposals). We are looking forward to working with any new operator. But we do have general suggestions we hope the Agency takes into account when considering candidates:

  • Better use of community days. Friends would like to see a more transparent method for providing community programming. We would like to see written guidelines so members of the community know what constitutes a community day and how they can propose an event. Community days should be seen as a way of serving the community with varied programming while also providing the theater with a way to increase knowledge of and interest in the theater. Fundraisers for PTAs and other organizations could be provided on top of the required number of community days.
  • It is important that any new operator recognize the importance of the theater as a historical building, take all steps to maintain it as such, do nothing to compromise its historical integrity, and cooperate in efforts to landmark it, either through local, state or, best of all, national designation. It is of course important to maintain all the historic and donor plaques, and to install the sidewalk donor stars.
  • Friends hopes the new operator continues to run a friendly, community-oriented operation. Like all the theater’s fans, we appreciated the opportunity to enjoy food and beverages while attending films, and hope that model continues. Serving food and beverages contributed to the community-oriented feeling of the theater and set the Cerrito apart as an entertainment destination.
  • We would love to see the new operator bring back to the theater some of the employees who were helping run it before, many of whom built strong ties to the community while serving as the human faces of the Cerrito. We believe these employees lost their jobs with no notice, and encourage the Agency to seek their return.
  • Friends of the Cerrito Theater plans to continue in our role as a supporter of the Cerrito Theater by publicizing special programming, attracting new audiences to the theater, and through other means. We have more than 2,000 people on our e-mail list and have deep roots in the community. We are looking forward to meeting with the new operators.

This is more than just another neighborhood theater. The Cerrito was reborn thanks to community efforts and has become a vital part of the El Cerrito community. Any new operator should understand the vital role the community has played and will continue to play in reviving and maintaining the Cerrito Theater.

Thank you.
Friends of the Cerrito Theater Steering Committee

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