April 4, 2009

The Parkway Closes, is the Cerrito Speakeasy Next?

The Cerrito Speakeasy is a great community asset, providing a good night out in the neighborhood with its movie, pizza and beer business model. It also anchors one of El Cerrito's most vibrant and interesting blocks, which is home to 33 Revolutions cafe and live music venue, Eclectix gallery, El Cerrito Yoga, Raphael's Shutter Cafe and Turnabout Thrift Shop.

The Cerrito's sister theater, the Parkway Speakeasy in Oakland, closed a couple weeks ago, a victim of the recession, the basic economics of running a theater and a lease dispute with the building's owner. I really enjoyed going there, it had a lot of character and was a key part of the neighborhood. This made me think - if the Parkway didn't make it, how's the Cerrito doing?

Sadly, not great. The East Bay Express is reporting that they owe the city of El Cerrito $150,000 in back rent. I couldn't believe this...whenever I go there the showings seem really well attended and a lot people buy drinks and food - so what's going on?

Well, the city is really concerned about the Cerrito's financial viability and in late January sent a letter to the theater's owner (who, incidently, seem like really nice, passionate people) notifying them that they are in technical default of their lease but that the city is committed to working with them to ensure the theater can continue operations. The theater's owner has asked the city to restructure their lease, which the city seems amenable to do as long as the owner can produce a business plan that demonstrates how they're going to operate the theater in an economically sound manner.

Maybe the closing of the Parkway will help focus resources in getting the Cerrito back on stable ground. A lot of time, money and effort went into bringing back life to the Cerrito Theater and I hope it's around for years to come.

Here's the theater's story:

More Resources:
  • A honest and candid Parkway Speakeasy farewell video from the owners
  • CinemaTreasures.com profile of the Cerrito Theater
  • Friends of the Cerrito Theater website
  • Ever wondered what it's like to own an independent theater? I'm a fan of the The Moxie Blog. The archives are particularly interesting to go through to see how they started their own theater from scratch.
  • If you want more information on the nuts-and-bolts of theater operations you might check out the forums on BigScreenBiz.
Update 04/13/09 - In this post I inadvertently referred to theater owner, when in fact they are the theater operator.

1 comment:

  1. Bummer. The El Cerrito one's always crowded when I go.