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Save the Guild Theater in Menlo Park

Original post made by Judy Adams, Menlo Park: Downtown, on Sep 20, 2016

I'm trying to start a movement this month, Sept. 2016, to Save the Guild Theater in Menlo Park, the only movie theater in Menlo Park, an intimate 300 seat movie house featuring independent and foreign films. It is now on a month-by-month lease with Landmark Theaters. (see Barbara Wood's article on the Guild in The Almanac, Jan. 11 of this year.

The property is still owned, I believe, by Howard Crittenden, an Atherton real estate investor, who also owned the Guild's "sister theater", the Park, which was closed in 2002. There was a community effort to save the Park - and Mr. Crittenden did attempt to work with the city to re-design the Park, maintaining a small theater and offices, but the efforts failed and the building was demolished. Only recently is there a proposal before the Menlo Park Planning Commission to build a combination cafe, commercial office and 3 residential units on the site which he sold, I believe in 2014 to 1275 LLC (Almanac, 9-14-16).

We need to save the Guild from a similar fate! When I moved to Palo Alto there were 3 movie houses in Menlo Park, one on Santa Cruz Avenue, and the Park and the Guild. Now there is one. Only two local Landmark theaters, Palo Alto's Aquarius theater (remodeled in cineplex style with reclining seats, and the mermaid only on the marquee and one fish mobile in the lobby instead of the marvelous funky aquarium decor of the old Aquarius), and the Guild have regular foreign and indie films.

I live just down the street from the Guild, and it would be a terrible loss to our community if it were to go the way of the Park, and other small, indie/foreign film venues supplanted by streaming video and several-screen multiplexes. I'd like to hear from Andrew Duncan, who worked so hard to keep the Park Theater in Menlo Park, to see if he can help rally the community with me and other residents to save the Guild as he tried to save the Park. I've written to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, to see if would be an "angel investor" to help save the Guild. True, the Guild needs renovation (new ADA bathroom, projection equipment, seats, air conditioning) - but I'd strongly urge maintaining elements of its distinctive interior light fixtures and the "wings" on the side walls (I understand from old theaters in San Francisco), retaining the funky, loveable flavor of our intimate 300 seat theater. It won't be the grand restoration that David Packard did to the magnificent Stanford Theater on University Ave. in Palo Alto, but we need to save our beloved Guild. In this age of multiplex cinemas and streaming videos, it is important to save our historic - and only - Menlo Park movie house.

I hope that local residents, Menlo Park and Palo Alto alike, and Stanford students, rally to SAVE THE GUILD, as they have rallyied to save the CineArts theater at Palo Alto Square (which now has a 2-year reprieve)! I hope to have a petition at the Menlo Park Sunday Farmer's Market next week, or supporters can contact me at judyblueeyes1@gmail.com. Let's ensure that another generation can enjoy our local Guild Theater - leave our living rooms and blue-ray devices behind and walk or drive to our local movie house with a long history in Menlo Park, munch on movie popcorn and snacks, applaud, laugh, cry, and settle back to enjoy, independent and foreign films with our neighbors.

Comments (7)

1 person likes this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Judy Adams, I understand your attachment to theaters, and I have seen many movies
in the Guild going back to the 70s and remember it fondly. I have seen many of the
places I grew up frequenting close down and disappear. The Varsity, the Bijou,
the Fine Arts, The Menlo, the Park, the Festival, The View in Mountain View. We
just averted a similar fate for the Palo Alto Square in Palo Alto, at least for 2 years.

However, the last few times I have been to the Guild all the negatives just pile up on
me and now I just refuse to go there any longer.

First is that there is so very little parking. For some reason the parking lot in the
back of the theater will not allow Guild Patrons to park there. So you have to drive
around and park on the street somewhere. I can do that, and have been but it
gets tiresome and difficult if you are going to a popular movie or come to the
theater a little late.

Then there is the theater itself. The theater where it is almost impossible to find
a seat that is not broken in some way or the other. The inside of the theater
itself looks a mess. The lobby is a mess, and the restrooms almost unspeakable.
God forbid I ever have to use the Guild's restroom facilities.

Maybe some of those complaints could be lessened, but the overall problem
of the theater still remains even if it is upgraded a little bit.

I wish you success in your endeavor, but I am not going to the Guild any
longer. I don't really wish actively to see it go, my only problem with it is
that somehow it always gets a lot of movies that I want to see first, before
any other theater in the area, and so I have wait, and wait, and wait for
whatever movie it is to go somewhere else, or just go away and appear in
online streaming.

It seems manipulative to me that (I think it is Landmark) forces people
to go to this theater by monopolizing certain movies and keeping them
there for so long. They are in effect squeezing every dime they can out
of this place and putting no money back into it. That is also not a company
or business strategy that I wish to support or encourage.


Like this comment
Posted by Village person
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Sep 21, 2016 at 12:35 am

The Guild is really uncomfortable. Kind of dirty too Bathrooms disgusting. But hey let's get Zuckerberg to pay to upgrade it


Like this comment
Posted by Judy Adams
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 26, 2016 at 7:01 am

Re saving the Menlo Park Guild Theater

Two comments I've seen - I'd like to respond to (Village Person and Plane Speaker). I do agree that the Guild needs major renovation, which is what we hope will happen if some "angel investor" helps save the theater for its cultural contribution of indie and foreigh films. That renovation will no doubt on a short term possibly have the theater closed during renovation, but that's worth the wait if we can preserve the theater's location and some of its quirky interior design features. What's important is that somehow we can enlist a financial supporter for the purchase and renovation, and encourage Landmark to become a full-time leasee again, and that we enlist city council and planning dept., for example, to acknowledge the need in the General Plan - so talked-about for so long - to include a neighborhood theater as part of our culture/history, and what better than upgrading and preserving a theater that has served many patrons in its long history. Re parking - street parking is available, as are the lots off Live Oak behind Starbucks (evenings when the businesses are closed) and the nearby municipal lots in decent walking distance - 2 hour zones, and decent pay rates during the day, and free on evenings (and there's a passenger drop-off parking zone while the driver parks. If you eat at nearby restaurants, you usually can park in their parking. Forward-thinking residents will also have parking when in the future the planned construction on El Camino where the vacant auto dealerships are available. I'd encourage senior citizens to organize group visits to the movies, and have their residence van take them, or use the county van service to take the.

I started my personal petition drive on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the theater and got everyone in line for the 7:15 showing of The Dressmaker(before it started moving into the theater), and got many additional signatures in support of saving the Guild yesterday (the 25th) at Menlo Park's Farmer's Market (115 signatures total so far). I'm hoping the Almanac will follow-up on their Jan. 11 letter with an update on community support, and help, as the Palo Alto Weekly did for the 2-yr reprieve for the closing of the Palo Alto Square Cinemark theater. The reprieve or saving of the Guild is more complex because of the physical condition of the Guild, but I do believe it can be done! We tried to save the Park, I believe we should make the effort to save the Guild and "re-guild" it physically by renovation.


2 people like this
Posted by Pam
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 20, 2016 at 1:14 pm

I support the Guild Theater which is a landmark. Renovate the theater maintaining its character. The Redwood City Fox Theater seems to be doing well. I am certain there are entrepreneurs who support the Theater.


4 people like this
Posted by Judy Adams
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 24, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Re: saving the Guild theater in Menlo Park. The petition to save the Guild from being sold, to convince Landmark Theaters to resume a long-term lease, and save the Guild from the fate of its former Menlo Park "sister theater", the Park, which was closed in 2002, started a few weeks ago - in a print petition at the Menlo Park farmer's market, and signed by Guild patrons in line for movies over the last few weeks. The print petition now has 260 signatures, and our online petition has 259 different signers. We expect many more in the coming weeks. Please go to our online petition and consider signing it - read the comments people have written about the importance of our small "arts" movie house.

We realize there is a complex situation involving the owner, the leasee Landmark Theaters, and the city of Menlo Park, but it's worth a try to save the theater, make some improvements, secure additional parking, etc. But the Guild has been a neighborhood theater for 90 years! Menlo Park City Council member Ray Mueller has been in support of finding a way to save the theater and we have many more potential supporters who want to maintain our small neighborhood theater, and some quite original proposals. We're also looking for an "angel investor" or investors, who might be able to save the Guild much as the community saved Kepler's Bookstore.

Please send your suggestions to saveguildtheater@yahoo.com, read the online petition and comments that the signers have made, and sign it to support our effort.

The online petition is on the website change.org. In your address/navigation bar (I think that's what it's called, not your browser search bar), type in change.org/search and then search for Guild Theater, or use the tiny url: http:/tinyurl.com/hazbwel. Because it has a comments field and automatically tallies the signers, the online petition is the preferred way to sign the petition. We will be posting the letter we will send with the petition to the City Council, Landmark Theater and the owner, when we have more signatures, but we've gotten over 500 signatures in support in just a few weeks, and still have to add email addresses to our outreach effort.

Please email your friends who might support saving the theater, and put the online petition links on your Facebook page! If you participate in nextdoor for Menlo Park, please add to our conversation there. Help us save and improve the Guild so that it doesn't meet the same fate as the Park Theater back in 2002. There is a place in Menlo Park for a small arts theater showing indie, foreign films and documentaries. Both the Guild and Palo Alto's Aquarius remain part of Landmark Theatres in our area - when called about the Guild, their publicity spokesperson said, "It's business as usual", but we need to boost attendance and work to save the theater from the fate of the Park. Residents of our neighboring cities, and Stanford have the unique opportunity of seeing 3 different independent and foreign films at the two theaters, the recently remodeled Aquarius, and our humble Guild.

You can also rent the theater for a special occasion. In the past the Guild has been part of the Jewish Film Festival. Of course, at midnight once a month you can attend the Rocky Horror fan gathering. This year the Girl Scouts put out a red carpet and had their own academy awards for films that the scouts made. Help us think creatively to preserve our last remaining theater! And support it by going to the films it offers and signing our petition.


2 people like this
Posted by Keep/Make Menlo Park Vibrant
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 25, 2016 at 10:09 am

We love having a theater we can walk to! The last thing we need are more reasons to have to get in our cars and drive to Redwood City or Palo Alto. For all the families wishing to make Menlo Park more vibrant, of which we are one, I hope you sign the petition to save the Guild so we don't have even less vibrancy.! I just signed the online petition. It took about 30 seconds.

TO SAVE THE GUILD THEATER, SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION HERE: http:/tinyurl.com/hazbwel


Like this comment
Posted by Dorothy Roca
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Hi, I found this thread while researching ways to save ANOTHER Guild Theater (the Guild 45th, in Seattle WA) that was suddenly closed without notice on June 1 by its parent company, Landmark Theaters.

I am curious to know whether there has been any success in saving the Guild in Menlo Park. If so. Please share strategies or news. Thanks.


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