The Pioneer

The UC Theatre reopens after more than a decade

Photo+courtesy+by+Berkeley+Music+Group
Photo courtesy by Berkeley Music Group

Photo courtesy by Berkeley Music Group

Photo courtesy by Berkeley Music Group

Jesse Castro,
Staff Writer

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A once popular movie theater in downtown Berkeley, known for its 22 year stretch of midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” is reopening after sitting vacant for 15 years.

But the days of film screenings have passed. Located at 2036 University Avenue, the UC Theatre has been converted into a music venue and will soon host the first of many musical performances in a newly renovated 12,000 square foot auditorium.

Two-time Grammy winning alternative rock band They Might Be Giants will perform March 25 during the theater’s grand reopening. The venue aims to host local, national and international acts, similar to lineups featured at venues like the Fillmore and the Fox Theatre.

In 2001, Gary Meyer, original purchaser of the UC Theater in 1974 as part of his Landmark Theatres chain, closed the doors in 2001 rather than invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a seismic upgrade required by a city ordinance, according to the UC Theatre website.

Meyer decided to pay for the seismic upgrade a few years later and contacted David Mayeri, president and CEO of Berkeley Music Group, about the possibility of reopening the theater. Months of discussion between them resulted in the decision to convert the former cinema into a music venue in 2007.

Mayeri said this space will accommodate between 500 and 1,400 people with flexible seating and standing areas in its 3-tier auditorium, with a full service bar and kitchen. The theatre will host symphonies, operas, films, comedy, and a wide range of live music performances weekly.

“There’s no venue of this size or type in the East Bay,” said Mayeri, who received approval from the city to convert the theatre into a live performance venue in 2009.

Berkeley Music Group has since transitioned into a non-profit organization in order to more effectively campaign for funds to renovate the theater. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Berkeley Music Group is exempt from certain corporate income taxes, which allows them to retain a larger percentage of the contributions they receive They are also able to apply for grants and other private or public funding that are only available to non-profit organizations.

“We wanted to create something that benefits the community and East Bay,” said Mayeri. “We’ve been blessed with support from the community.”

According to Mayeri, since the transition into a non-profit organization, Berkeley Music Group generated $5.6 million dollars through private donations and grants to renovate and reopen the UC Theatre. After Taube Philanthropies gave a $1.3 million matching grant, the largest contribution made toward the campaign, the theatre was renamed The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall.

The Berkeley Music Group hired Todd Hess Building Co. to renovate the theatre in March 2015. The funds from Taube Philanthropies aided in the renovations and the addition of sound mitigation and acoustic enhancements like ceiling duct lining which decreases the reverberation of sound to under one second.

The theatre was redesigned with a unique modern aesthetic, according to Mayeri. Full theatrical curtains hang between metallic gold columns with dark blue detailing across the top of each wall of the auditorium. The entire auditorium is lit by six chandeliers that are hung in pairs over each tier, from the dance floor to the entrance. Since the seated areas are on higher tiers, the stage is in clear view from every point in the room.

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The UC Theatre reopens after more than a decade