Cerrito Theater sale wins final approval


The “Oversight Board of the El Cerrito Redevelopment Successor Agency” concluded its important task of ensuring that properties formerly owned by El Cerrito’s Redevelopment Agency were properly disposed of last night, June 27, 2018.

Their last bit of business, before justifiably congratulating each other for six years of hard, detailed, volunteer work, was to unanimously approve the sale of the Cerrito Theater from the city to Rialto Cinemas.

The sale is not yet complete, as various bits of real estate issues need to be resolved, contingencies and all that. But the vote means that, barring unforeseen tragedies, the theater will continue to operate as a theater with its historic elements intact for the next 99 years.

A dozen members of the community, some longtime members of Friends of the Cerrito Theater, but others just fans of the theater, crammed into a small conference room at City Hall to show support.

Members of the oversight board are members of our local community. Two, Sandi Potter, and the chair of the oversight board, Bill Jones, served on the City Council – including during the period when the city was acquiring and restoring the theater, which operates today as Rialto Cinemas Cerrito.

There was a bit of unspoken drama to all of this. This was the final meeting of the oversight board because in July it will be replaced by a county-wide oversight board. City officials wanted to make sure the sale went before a local board that would have greater understanding of the importance of the theater to the city – and would vote yes.

They got the package approved by council just a week ago – and to the oversight board in the nick of time.

Almost like a scene from a silent movie melodrama.

Speaking on behalf of Friends, Dave Weinstein told the board that the theater still has an important role to play in the city’s future, serving as centerpiece to what we hope will be an expanding social center for the community.

The oversight board clearly understood the value of the theater to the community. Members of the board stated that the theater has made an important difference to the economic and social wellbeing of El Cerrito.

Ky Boyd of Rialto Cinemas said the company understands and welcomes its role as part of the El Cerrito Community.

He also reminisced a bit, talking about how Rialto managed to make two positive changes in how the theater had been operated by their predecessor, Speakeasy.

Speakeasy showed second run, not first run films. Speakeasy did not allow anyone younger than drinking age in the theater (“Baby Brigade” nights excepted, and then only for babies.)

Ky said it took some convincing, but Warner Brothers agreed to let Rialto show “Harry Potter.” It did extremely well, suggesting to other motion picture distributors that El Cerrito was big time.

As to selling beer and wine with kids in the theater, “It’s not possible,” Ky was told. “It has to be possible,” he said. It was.

See you at the movies.