Orinda Theater Threatened Again!
This iconic Art Deco landmark survived when threatened by development in 1984 and now it’s in jeopardy again due to mandatory theater closings for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Historic Art Deco Design
The classic theater was built between 1937-1941 by Donald Rheem, son of Standard Oil Company president William S. Rheem and a movie fanatic. It was designed and executed by with attention to the comfort and relaxation of guests with all the modern features of the day. The theater walls and foyer ceiling featured enormous murals by distinguished muralist, Tony Heinsberger and the great wall paintings in the auditorium and stadium interpret the lands bordering the Pacific, and the great ocean itself. The “air, fire, water and earth” imagery, red velvet seats and a main curtain added glamour and sophistication to the movie house. The architecture and decor were key factors in the building’s designation as part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The theater was slated to open on December 6 in 1941, but was postponed due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It opened two weeks later, on December 26 with the screening of “Texas,” an American Western film starring William Holden, Glenn Ford and Claire Trevor. The gala opening was attended by radio, television and movie stars including ventriloquist, Paul Winchell and actress Jean Parker.
Help The Orinda Stay Open
With your help, the Orinda Theater will celebrate its 79th birthday this coming December.
Please visit the GoFundMe page for the Orinda Theater and join the 1-ticket donation challenge. For the price of just one theater ticket you can be part of this historic campaign to keep this East Bay treasure open and operating.
Watch Bay area journalist, Frank Mallicoat interviewing Derek Zemrak the operator of the Orinda Theatre here.