Palo Alto's Aquarius Theatre reopens

Opening weekend features 'Stanford Prison Experiment,' free popcorn

After more than three months of closure for remodeling, downtown Palo Alto's Aquarius Theatre, at 430 Emerson St., reopened Friday, July 24.

Built in 1969 and operated by Landmark Theatres since 1985, the theater closed on March 30 for significant renovations, including the addition of larger screens; luxury leather seats and recliners; a new sound system, acoustics and lighting; updated bathrooms; a new marquee and a restructured lobby including a concession stand serving gourmet hot treats like sweet potato fries and Gouda macaroni-and-cheese bites.

"We have applied for a liquor license, and will be serving beer and wine hopefully within a month or two," said Landmark Theatres President Ted Mundorff in a phone interview.

Mundorff explained that the lease on the space had been set to expire, and Landmark had considered whether or not they should stay.

"We've been in the market for a long time," he said. "We did not want to leave it. I just thought, 'If we had an opportunity to build a new theater in Palo Alto, we would do that, so why not renovate the one we have?'"

According to Mundorff, the Aquarius will feel like a brand new theater. Among the perks of the new space is the option of advanced reserved seating. Regular patrons can expect the cost of a ticket to be slightly higher, he said, explaining, "Ticket prices will come in somewhere between Redwood City and Mountain View." General admission tickets will now be $12, up from $10 before the renovation. Senior, child, student and bargain matinee tickets will be $9.50.

The Aquarius remains a twin cinema with an emphasis on independent and foreign language films.

On Friday, July 24, the theater officially reopened with two films: a digitally restored version of Carol Reed's 1949 film noir, "The Third Man," starring Orson Welles, and "The Stanford Prison Experiment," a psychological thriller based on a famous psychology experiment conducted in 1971 by Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo. Following the Saturday 7:10 p.m. screening, Zimbardo and director Kyle Patrick Alvarez will conduct a Q&A session.

Between July 24 and 30, "The Stanford Prison Experiment" will screen daily at 1, 4 and 7:10 p.m., with evening screenings at 10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9:55 p.m. all other nights. "The Third Man" will screen daily at 2, 4:30, 7:20 and 9:45 p.m.

In celebration of the theater's reopening, admission to all films shown Friday, July 24, through Sunday, July 26, will include free popcorn.

Mundorff, who plans to attend the Thursday evening open house, encouraged members of the community to come out for the event.

"We would like people to come see for themselves what we've done and what they can expect," he said.

For more information, go to facebook.com/AquariusTheatre or landmarktheatres.com.

Related story: Palo Alto's Aquarius Theatre closes for remodel


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