Fine Arts Cinema

2451 Shattuck Avenue,
Berkeley, CA 94704

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Previous Names: The Cinema, Mitchell Bros. Cinema, Berkeley Cinema, Horizon Cinema

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Fine Arts Cinema

Originally an ice cream parlor, this theater was opened in the 1950’s by Pauline Kael (the famous film critic), who operated it for several years as the Berkeley Cinema. (No relation to the Berkeley theater, now since demolished.)

The film offerings were largely foreign films as well as film classics. One Japanese film in the 1960’s ran here for over one year! Declining attendance led the way to the Mitchell Brothers purchasing the theater and in January 1974, started running porn. In the mid 1980’s, the theater became the Fine Arts, showing arthouse fare.

In the 1990’s the theater was closed off and on until the current operators opened in 1998. The programming was largely independent film, documentaries, film festivals, and occasional revival product. Many of there films were seldom shown elsewhere.

The theater closed June 30, 2002 and was torn down.

Contributed by scottfavareille

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

gsmurph on December 9, 2004 at 4:03 am

Don’t know for sure about the theater part, but me, I just can’t help feeling that this is Kennedy’s way of rubbing it in.

gsmurph on January 4, 2005 at 2:50 pm

The Fine Arts was originally The Cinema; later it was known as Mitchell Brothers Cinema, Berkeley Adult Cinema, and Horizon Cinema.

gsmurph on January 8, 2005 at 11:16 am

Oops—-forgot about Bombay Cinema too.

claudecat on February 4, 2007 at 9:39 pm

After they demolished the building, someone spray-painted “Cinema is Dead” on a remaining wall amidst the rubble.

enrique53 on September 6, 2007 at 3:08 pm

I was one of the projectionists there from 1969- 1973
Helped rebuild the projectors after the fire.

Pauline Kael had a film library there and during the maintenance of some of th enitrate prints the fire started.

Only 1.25 reels of film burned.

the booth was destroyed.

600 reels were undamaged in the fireproof storage area.

enrique53 on December 12, 2011 at 11:49 am

Francesca where are you,. I had such a crush on you. Alas I was just a kid. And you were the candy girl.

Bill_Lonee on August 3, 2020 at 12:26 am

Saw my first porn film there! Back in the day, of course, before home video. I think I went two or three times.

50sSNIPES on August 22, 2021 at 1:11 pm

There are a few fires that occurred at the Fine Arts Theatre, the earliest one being on November 14, 1957, caused by the projector while in a middle of one out of 3 Charlie Chaplin films. This forced an evacuation of 25 patrons, nobody injured. It caused an estimated $800 in damage.

erilaz on December 31, 2022 at 11:51 am

I saw some interesting programming at the Fine Arts back in the 1990s, including the silent “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” from 1910, accompanied by a live klezmer band, and a Ray Dennis Steckler film festival, where I bought some of his VHS tapes and got him to sign the boxes, along with my copy of “RE/Search #10: Incredibly Strange Films”.

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