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Palo Alto Square theater to remain open -- for now

CinéArts was set to go dark after Thursday night's showings

More than 2,600 signatures and letters from the Palo Alto City Council to the landlord of the CinéArts Theatre in Palo Alto and to theater headquarters appear to have at least temporarily stayed the shuttering of the much-loved movie house.

CinéArts at Palo Alto Square was set to go dark after Thursday night's movie showings, but two days ago theatergoers learned that the movie house would remain open for a longer time, Councilwoman Karen Holman said.

Cinemark, the Texas-based movie-theater chain that owns CinéArts, decided to close the theater after its lease was set to expire in August, a company spokesman previously told the Weekly. Upgrades to the theater would be costly, and rather than investing in the theater, the company decided not to renew the lease.

Holman said that the community gathered 2,600 petition signatures in 200 hours.

The city first sent a preliminary 1,000-signature petition to Cinemark and to the landlord, Hudson Pacific Properties. That was followed yesterday with the larger, updated petition. A letter from the city is asking that the landlord and Cinemark work together to retain the theater.

"This is such an important resource. It's the only large-seating-capacity, first-run movie theater we have in Palo Alto," Holman said. "It is the venue, I think, to three international film festivals and Metropolitan Opera simulcast performances. It's the place where people get access to Academy Award-nominated movies.

"We really get the cream of the crop in terms of art and cultural film. If we should happen to lose this -- and we will certainly try not to -- it would be a tremendous loss to the community," Holman added.

Addressing the closure has been a bit of a challenge for the city, since the council was on break when officials learned of the closure plans, Holman said. City officials don't know why the theater is remaining open for the time being, but Holman said she hopes the community outpouring has something to do with it.

"I cannot thank the community enough for stepping up. ... I can't tell you how much we appreciate the community support and expressing their wishes. It's really critical," she said.

Most of the petition signatures came from Palo Alto residents and theater patrons. And although signatures aren't being collected now, Holman said there is more work to be done to ensure the theater doesn't close.

"We really want to encourage people to get out and continue their support with their attendance," she said.

Cinemark and Hudson Pacific Properties did not return requests for comment on Wednesday. An employee at CinéArts said that staff cannot comment on plans for the theater or how long it will remain open, but he did confirm that it remains open at this time.

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