News

Guild Theatre to close Thursday

Menlo Park theater to be transformed into a live music venue

Cars zoom by Landmark's Guild Theatre in Menlo Park before the monthly midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on April 6. The Peninsula Arts Guild plans to transform the theater into a live music venue. (Photo by Magali Gauthier/The Almanac.)

Landmark's Guild Theatre, a single-screen movie theater that's been in Menlo Park since 1924, is set to officially close after showings on Thursday, Sept. 26, according to the operator.

Landmark spokeswoman Laine Kaplowitz confirmed with The Almanac that the theater will be closing. The closure was first announced on Facebook on Sept. 20.

"Landmark Theatres will continue showcasing our signature variety of quality films paired with a top-tier entertainment experience at the Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto," the announcement adds.

The Guild was constructed in 1924 and began offering "moving pictures" around 1925, according to a historical report by Bonnie Bamburg, excerpted on the Imagine Menlo website.

According to the report, the theater, initially called The Menlo, started out showing silent films accompanied by a live organist, but by 1929 had upgraded its sound system to offer "Movie-Phone" sound. The lobby was forcibly shortened by about 30 feet in 1942 when El Camino Real was widened. The theater changed names to the Guild when a newer theater in town took the name "The Menlo."

Ownership changed hands several times. In the late 1980s, the theater was remodeled in the Art Deco style, and it developed into its current niche in the local theater-scape as an art house theater, the report explains.

In recent years, it's hosted monthly midnight screenings of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" with a live cast.

The new Guild

The Menlo Park City Council approved plans in May 2018 to transform the vintage movie theater into a nonprofit live music venue.

The initiative is led by the Peninsula Arts Guild, made up of Menlo Park resident Drew Dunlevie and backed by two affluent locals: investor Pete Briger and entrepreneur Thomas Layton.

As to the current status of the project, Dunlevie explained in an email to The Almanac on Monday, Sept. 23, "We're (hopefully) close to getting permits from City of Menlo Park so we can get started in earnest."

Dunlevie said he gave Landmark 30 days' notice a few days ago and is in conversations with the theater operator to have some additional final film screenings after Sept. 26.

He said he thinks they're close to completing all of the steps necessary to get permits from the city of Menlo Park, but acknowledges that it's been a complex process. "I don't want to jinx it," he said.

According to the preliminary plans for the new Guild, the project would convert the single-screen theater into a three-level venue with a main viewing area on the ground floor, a second-story mezzanine, and a basement with a "green room" and a comfortable area where performers can shower and relax prior to shows.

The organization plans to operate the venue as a nonprofit, Dunlevie said. It would charge for admission to cover the costs of operations and paying the musicians, and would funnel any extra revenue back into the venue's programming, and offering discounted tickets.

The new Guild would be about 11,000 square feet, with a maximum height of 34 feet and a capacity of about 150 to 200 seats, or about 500 people at a standing-room-only show.

For those interested in one last movie at the historic theater, the Guild is playing the film "Official Secrets" at 1:45 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. through Thursday. Ticket information is available here.

Update: As of late Monday night, Judy Adams, leader of the "Save the Guild" campaign, told The Almanac that The Guild will host a free screening of the film "Cinema Paradiso" instead of "Official Secrets" on Wednesday evening as a farewell event for the theater. Doors open at 6:30 and the film starts at 7:05. First-come, first served. Concessions will also be available for purchase.

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Comments

39 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 23, 2019 at 12:20 pm

There are now no movie theaters in Menlo Park. If I want to see a movie I will have to drive to Palo Alto or Redwood City.

I will miss the Guild theater. It was really nice to walk there to see a movie. I used to also go to the Park theatre but it was left to decay into nothing.

Menlo Park is becoming such a depressing town.


6 people like this
Posted by Allen
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 23, 2019 at 12:29 pm

I fear with the closing of the Guild seeing film on a screen as large as was meant to be is becoming a thing of the past. This is the third and final theater to close in Menlo Park since I moved to Menlo in the early 1970's. TV has won out. Sad.


6 people like this
Posted by Allen
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 23, 2019 at 12:30 pm

I fear with the closing of the Guild, seeing film on a screen as large as was meant to be is becoming a thing of the past. This is the third and final theater to close in Menlo Park since I moved to Menlo in the early 1970's. TV has won out. Sad.


11 people like this
Posted by Sara T
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2019 at 12:40 pm

Sara T is a registered user.

I, too, regret the demise of movie theaters in Menlo Park. I enjoyed being able to walk to see a movie on a large screen. Some films are satisfactory on TV, but many art films are not well served by that medium.


37 people like this
Posted by long timer
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Fosters Freeze gone...Su Hongs...gone...Oasis...gone and on and on and on and on. Now the Guild. Menlo Park has sold its soul to the devil. Menlo Park is now run by greedy developers and politicians. SAD. This is not the Menlo Park I grew up in. We left the Bay Area and California for exactly this reason. Shame on Menlo Park.


4 people like this
Posted by Art
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 23, 2019 at 1:08 pm

I, for one, am excited by the new plan. A non-profit performing arts venue? That sounds great to me, and has the potential to draw a lot of new people to the downtown area.

I found the screen at the Guild so small, I might as well been at home watching TV. Things have indeed changed, and I'm all for a new life for the Guild.


11 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2019 at 1:48 pm

long timer, u forgot Kens House of Pancakes, Chiles, and Fosters Freeze. Roger Reynolds, etc, etc.


4 people like this
Posted by theater goer
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Sep 23, 2019 at 2:06 pm

theater goer is a registered user.

Awful loss! The nature of the music to come is undefined, I think? And the future of art film in Menlo? Zilch.
I’m so glad I don’t live in Menlo Park!


14 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Sad. i've fond memories of seeing movies @ the Guild (and the Park) during my college days in the '60s.
The big multiplexes show lots of superhero & Disney flicks but there are many fine films which don't make it to those venues.

With traffic as it is, I don't want to go to SF or Berkeley to see the non-blockbusters so I mourn the disappearance of the local theaters. I do think the Guild relied too heavily on midnight showings of Rocky Horror Show though.


11 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2019 at 3:50 pm

pearl is a registered user.

In the late 1940s-early 1950s, when we were kids, tickets to the Park and the Guild Theatres cost 25 cents! For 25 cents, we saw a full-length movie, a black and white news reel, a cartoon, and the latest serial installment of Superman, or The Lone Ranger or Roy Rogers or Hop-A-Long Cassidy - or one of the popular serials of the day. At the end of the full-length movie, a message would appear on the screen telling us it was Intermission time, and that we could go out to the lobby and buy popcorn, and candy and soda pop. Those were good times. :)


6 people like this
Posted by Ruth W
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Sep 23, 2019 at 4:42 pm

The closing of The Guild is coming a few days after a lively discussion about downtown Menlo Park's lack of ability to attract evening visitors. Part of Redwood City's revitalization is due to the cinemas and the renovation of the Fox Theater as well as restaurants. It's encouraging to hear the Guild will be refashioned into a music venue that should attract people and encourage restaurant visits. But a movie is still a relatively inexpensive and casual (last minute decision) night out. It's open 7 days a week and has multiple showings. The Guild may not be the right place, but a vital downtown requires at least one movie theater.


8 people like this
Posted by Gross town
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Sep 23, 2019 at 7:22 pm

LOL theres nothing left in mp its just a gross sh*thole. I feel bad for the people living there


8 people like this
Posted by Sad
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2019 at 7:28 pm

So sad. I'm so glad my kids were able to go to Rocky Horror this year, a bunch of times, as seniors in high school. This year's class won't have that experience, and it's so sad.

I enjoyed going to the Guild, but I also wanted it to be upgraded (like the Varsity in Palo Alto) so that it didn't feel dark and scary at night, and so that the theater itself felt clean and well cared for. I don't think the lack of traffic in downtown MP is going to be changed by making this a live music venue, unless the whole culture of the restaurants and so forth changes as well. You have to have something great to draw the people, and MP rolls up the sidewalks pretty early.


5 people like this
Posted by Judy A
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 24, 2019 at 1:07 am

Judy A is a registered user.

I've done a separate post on the free film we've been able to schedule for this Wed. Sept. 25th at the Guild: "Cinema Paradiso" at 7:05 (doors open a approx 6:30 first come/first seated). This is to honor the many years of the Guild and its staff. We were able to schedule this event to say Goodbye Guild, through the efforts of Drew Dunlevie of the Peninsula Arts Guild, who convinced Landmark to replace the regularly scheduled Wed. showing of the current film at the Guild, and substitute the film I recommended for an event at the Guild when we knew it was closing down for demolition. We didn't have much time between Landmark's announcement on the 20th and today, but we have the film. Entrance is free but refreshment are at the usual cost. Whether you were among the 4000 who signed my petition to save the Guild, or not, please honor our old theater, the last of the single screen indie/arts movies around, by coming to the Guild this Wed with your family, friends, neighbors, and enjoy a free movie that is a heartwarming "cinema love story." I live down the street from the Guild and feel its loss deeply. Let's share an evening at the Guild for old times sake, and hope for a successful new Guild and the support and interest in film programs at the new Guild that PAG Prez. Drew Dunlevie has expressed through this long process. Contribute to the movement to ensure that film options are part of the new Guild by writing to me at saveguildtheater@yahoo.com. I'm asking to refresh the online presence of a Google "form" where residents and film buffs can express mention their famous indie/foreign/arts film for the new Guild, and give feedback on film festivals they want to suggest.


6 people like this
Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 24, 2019 at 1:32 pm

Robert Cronin is a registered user.

Judy, you don't have to drive. Ride your bike. It's not that far.


2 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2019 at 2:29 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Robert Cronin:

Great idea! Is there a bike rack there where we can lock our bikes?

pearl


2 people like this
Posted by Good
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Sep 24, 2019 at 9:24 pm

That theater served no purpose, Im glad its being demolished. Whenever I drove by I never recognized any movies playing there. Good riddance. Now if only they could open a real theater...


2 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 25, 2019 at 3:04 am

Robert: I don't own a bike. I used to ride but had way too many near misses with cars.

What makes you think you have the right to tell me to ride a bike? I prefer to walk and frequently walk to downtown Palo Alto during daylight hours. Most movies don't end until the evening and I don't feel safe walking home after dark. I don't mind walking to the Guild theater after dark because it is so close to my apartment. It is within walking distance to many homes and apartment buildings, which makes its loss keenly felt by locals.

Redwood City where the theater is located is too far by foot and too dangerous by bike. I've tried it. Never again.

If I did have a bike I'd worry about it being stolen. I grew up in Palo Alto and had a couple of bikes and a moped stollen. So far no one has attempted to steal my walking shoes.


Like this comment
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 25, 2019 at 9:13 am

A new life as a music venue shows that, at least, it will be used to support the arts. It's a little sad in a way, but I don't find this as discouraging as some of the other closures in town.


Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2019 at 10:31 am

Feeling sad.... Beltramos gone too. Preins record store gone. Ann’s Coffee shop still there n a different location.


2 people like this
Posted by Judy A
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 25, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Judy A is a registered user.

Thanks for people's comments. Please come and encourage friends to come to tonight's screening of "Cinema Paradiso" (mentioned by reviews as a "cinema love story" - appropriate for our remaining indie/arts/foreign Landmark film venue for lovers of those type of films)FREE AT THE GUILD, 7pm. We're told the door opens at 6:30, or we'll line up then. No tickets, no cost (except for the refreshment counter at usual cost). Tonight is not the last night at the Guild (and the film now showing will be screened today at 1:45 and 4:15) but with the free "Cinema Paradiso) at 7 - the regular booking on Thursday is the last night of the film that is currently showing and the last film at the Guild. But tonight is a SPECIAL FREE NIGHT "Goodbye to the Guild" screening to acknowledge the long history of the Guild, the staff at the Guild (most of whom we hope will be working at the Aquarius). There is not yet a specific date for the demolition, as permits haven't been issued, but the estimate is at least 2 years until the new Guild opens. In the meantime, there are UNAFF (United Nations Film Festival archived film documentaries shown at the Menlo Park Little House Senior/Activity center (800 Middle Ave, Menlo Park) on first Wed. at 1:30 and other documentaries (not first-run) on 3rd wed. at 1pm. Future plans include evening screenings. But for first-run Landmark theater films as have been shown at the Guild, such as the excellent recent Toni Morrison documentary, we'll have to go to the Palo Alto Aquarius.

We look forward to opportunities for film and film festivals (encouraged by the Peninsula Arts Guild, now owners of the property, as part of arts "public benefit" programming. The new Guild Theater is focusing on live entertainment - music mainly, and has been heralded as a way to light up the city, sometimes referred to as "Menlo Dark." The city council has been invited to this special screening as are all those fond of the Guild.

In the meantime, Menlo Park's Little House Senior/Activity Center (800 Middle Ave., Menlo Park) is offering regular showings every first Wed. at 1:30pm in the Little House theater just down the hall from the cafe, United Nations Film Festival (UNAFF) international documentaries from its archives (most recently about Cuba), and 3rd Wed. at 1pm, other popular documentaries by local filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman and popular documentaries, such as a recent film about a ground-breaking young African-American ballerina, Misty Copeland.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2019 at 1:39 pm

Robert Cronin is a registered user.

Judy: I didn't tell you to ride your bike. I said that you didn't have to drive and could ride your bike if you chose. I ride to Redwood City all the time. It is not particularly dangerous.


Like this comment
Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 26, 2019 at 2:17 am

Judy Adams, bless you for this past evening's special showing of Cinema Paradiso, and bless you for your indefatigable work on this over the years. The showing was a very memorable event, and my friend Duncan and I were lucky to have joined the many other fans there. We'll now be able to say we were there, and others can be envious.

Last, let's hope the new venue starts another great 90-year tradition. It could happen.

-- Rick Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com


Like this comment
Posted by Judy A
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 27, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Judy A is a registered user.

Thank you Rick Moen for your comment. I'm pleased at the community response - more than 120 supporters were able to come on short notice. I'm glad your friend Duncan enjoyed it as well. A lot of us were in tears from the movie and the occasion.

And Mr. Cronin, I'm sorry I misunderstood your comment. I have had the pleasure of being able to walk to the Guild since I bought in the neighborhood; it was a great convenience to pop down to catch a movie, or sometimes even just go down to get a bag or popcorn for a snack.

I thank everyone who came, talked with me - and especially talked with each other.
I'm so glad I was able to put the screening together, and again, thanks to Peninsula Arts Guild President, Drew Dunlevie, who convinced Landmark to let us substitute for the next to last night of the scheduled feature film. I believe that one couple came for other film and were disappointed. We tried to post information about the schedule change as soon as we made the arrangements, and there were 3 other showing of the scheduled film on Thursday. The community came out for the Guild one last time, and it was an event I will never forget.!

Judy Adams


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 27, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Robert Cronin is a registered user.

Judy, I forgot to mention it, but if biking to Redwood City is not your cup of tea, and you'd rather not drive, the Samtrans ECR bus will take you to the Redwood City transit center, a short walk to the theater district and many restaurants. If you get a Clipper card, you get a discount and never have to worry about exact change. The Clipper card is also good on Caltrain, VTA, SF Muni, BART, AC Transit, etc.


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