Friends of the Cerrito Theater Supports Proposed Sales Agreement with Rialto Cinemas


Friends of the Cerrito Theater strongly supports efforts by the City of El Cerrito and Rialto Cinemas to reach an agreement on the proposed sale of the historic, 1937 Art Deco-styled Cerrito Theater to Rialto Cinemas.

On June 19, the El Cerrito City Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on a sale of the Cerrito Theater to the theater’s current operator, Rialto Cinemas, which leases the building from the city.

Negotiations are ongoing and no final agreement has been reached. But city staff and Rialto are developing a plan that, if incorporated into the sale agreement, would ensure that Rialto Cinemas Cerrito, as the theater is known, would continue to successfully show first-run movies, special screenings, and movie classics, and to sell food and beverages, without interruption.

In addition, Rialto would agree to continue providing 12 community days for special screenings by local organizations.

Importantly, Rialto Cinemas would agree to preserve all of the theater’s historic elements, from the façade and neon marquee to the etched glass in doorways and a mirror, the original painting scheme, light sconces and more. A mechanism to ensure this preservation is being developed.
On top of that, Rialto would agree to a permanent deed restriction requiring that the building be operated “in perpetuity” as a theater or performance space. (Though not necessarily as a movie theater.)

That means that, 10 or 20 years down the road, we would not be seeing condos or a drug store in that space.

Friends of the Cerrito Theater, which has been working to restore and preserve the theater since 2001, believes this proposed agreement is the best outcome we could have. The city never intended to own the theater forever.

We commend the City Council and city staff. We also thank the owners of Rialto for working with the city towards a positive solution.

Friends hopes to continue our close and cooperative relationship with Rialto after the sale, including presentations of classic movies.

Friends of the Cerrito Theater will follow this process closely. Members of the public can learn more by contacting Melanie Mintz, Community Development Director at 215-4339 or

There will be a public meeting in the small meeting room at the theater at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 6. We encourage people to attend. The City Council is expected to discuss and vote on the sale at its Tuesday, June 19 meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.