Why is the Park Theater so special?
Located in the heart of Lafayette, the iconic Park Theater is a beloved symbol of the community – and an architectural gem. With a façade that is a classic example of Art Deco’s international offshoot, Streamline Moderne, it was designed in 1941 by renowned cinema architect William B. David. Shuttered since 2005, memories of the Park’s past cinematic glory and deep community impact linger with families, friends, and long-time citizens who recall Saturday matinees for the kids, special school vacation programming, first dates and first-run foreign films, and kitschy classics. Re-opening the Park as a cinema and entertainment venue remains one of the top 4 community concerns and is also a priority for local merchants and the City as we work together to revitalize Downtown and recover from the global pandemic.
WHY IS THE PARK SO IMPORTANT TO DOWNTOWN?
TPTT’s research into the economic impact of bringing the Park Theater back to life has elicited consistent feedback from the Chamber of Commerce, local business stakeholders, and the City of Lafayette among others, that a reopened Park Theater will have an immediate, materially beneficial effect on all downtown businesses and the community at large.
Data also proves how, in addition to expanding regional cultural opportunities and making local businesses thrive, small, hometown cinemas function as meeting places and social centers, with films, special events, educational screenings and fundraising activities that engage community groups, families, and senior citizens, and serve as a safe, secure venue for youth.
Per Ernst & Young NATO data in their report, Economic Contributions of the Movie Industry (August 2021): “In 2019, it is estimated that movie operations and movie-night spending generated more than $4.9 billion nationwide in federal, state, and local tax revenue with state and local taxes nearly 59% of total taxes. Overall, nationwide dining and retail spending associated with movie visits is $5 billion, split approximately equally between dining and retail.”
In addition, our research has shown that our model of a nonprofit owner with a for-profit operator is sustainable over the long term. The City of Lafayette further demonstrated its belief in, and support of, TPTT’s mission by contributing $500,000 to finalize the purchase.
What is “The Park Theater Trust” (TPTT)?
The Park Theater Trust (TPTT) is a California 501(c)(3) Public Benefit corporation whose mission is to refurbish and operate Lafayette’s iconic Park Theater building, and to revitalize it into an accessible and inclusive, community-centered cinema, arts and culture hub with programming that includes critically acclaimed films, throwback favorites, and engaging non-film events.
Who serves on The Park Theater Trust?
We are an all-volunteer nonprofit organization of Lafayette citizens and representatives of community organizations, with a Board of Directors and operating bylaws. Formerly the Park Theater Action Committee (PTAC), we were called together by the City in 2018 but are not operating under its auspices.
Who owns The Park Theater?
As of December 2021, The Park Theater Trust owns the Park Theater property for the benefit of the entire community of Lafayette in order to protect it, refurbish it, and retain it for the enjoyment of future generations.
What is the overall condition of the building?
A building assessment was done and preliminary findings show that the Park Theater is structurally sound. The roof will need to be replaced; HVAC and electrical issues will need to be addressed as well as ADA compliance. Some level of asbestos abatement will probably be required in order to occupy the building. There may be additional work needed, and it will be the responsibility of TPTT to bring the building up to code and basic function.
Others have tried to re-open the Park Theater. Why will TPTT be successful?
TPTT researched the several previous, very diligent attempts to re-open the Park and took a close look at what was working for other communities and their small cinemas. It was determined that for Lafayette, success and sustainability is achievable via a partnership between a nonprofit owning the building, and then leasing and working in close collaboration with a mission-driven, for-profit operator who will offer movies and collaborate with community “allies” to develop a regular calendar of additional, diversified programming that attracts multigenerational interest and users. We also learned that in many cases, multiple screens offered a stronger path to success and sustainability, so our plan for the Park Theater is to reconfigure the interior in such a way as to incorporate two screens in a format flexible enough to accommodate and showcase additional types of programming.
What does a “mission-driven, for-profit” operator mean?
One of the many things that makes the community of Lafayette special is the way we all care. We care about our children, so we fund our schools and seek out the best possible teachers and administrators. We care about our health and emotional well-being so we support an active Parks, Trails & Recreation Commission and Creeks Committee, and collaborate with EBMUD in order to preserve and protect our beautiful Rez, bike trails, and open spaces. We care about our citizens, so we volunteer for a wide range of organizations and City committees. And we care about the kinds of businesses that come into our town because we enjoy the communal aspect, the reciprocal “neighborliness” between customer and retailer, that we find at so many of them. We all love Lafayette and since we know we are fortunate to live here, we work together to preserve its special character.
The Park Theater needs to be profitable in order to survive, and for that to happen in Lafayette, research pointed to a for-profit operator. However, the goal of TPTT, in addition to profitability for the theater (and therefore additional success for arts and culture in Lafayette), was to find an operator who would be responsive to the community, who would listen and respond – with programming, job training, job opportunities, sustainability, and responsibility. That is our definition of “mission-driven” and TPTT believes it is attainable with our new partners, CinemaSF, who are highly regarded for their community focus and expertise. Adam, Jaimi and the CinemaSF team will operate the Park Theater in alignment with our community’s values and goals. We are thrilled that they have agreed to bring the Park back to life.
Who are the Community “Allies” you mention?
In addition to all of the citizens of the Lamorinda community, we see our allies as local affinity organizations who will specifically benefit from the programming we envision for a revitalized Park Theater. Included in this group are: the City of Lafayette; Lafayette Parks, Trails & Recreation Commission; Lafayette Creeks Committee, Lafayette Chamber of Commerce; Town Hall Theater; Lafayette Library & Learning Center, Las Trampas Adult Education Center; Sustainable Lafayette; Lafayette Rotary; Lafayette Senior Services; Lamorinda Presents; Sunflower Hill and the Cancer Support Center; local area schools and businesses, among others. We continue to reach out to the greater community with our presentation, asking for their input and support on behalf of our effort to bring the Park Theater back to life. We believe numerous community groups will benefit from special programming and/or targeted use of the theater for meetings, special events, etc., and that the business community at large will greatly benefit from the additional dollars that will come into the area once the theater is up and running.
Will you still show movies?
Absolutely! Think of the renewed Park Theater as a community-centered, “speak-easy” cinema featuring first-run art/indie films, Hollywood classics, and engaging non-film events/activities to appeal to all generations.
The re-imagined Park Theater will be the first and only cinema art house of its kind this side of the Caldecott Tunnel, bringing an elevated level of culture and entertainment to Contra Costa County and beyond. Among other programming priorities, we envision films for families with young children, movies with appeal to the senior community, films that deal with diversity and equity, economic and social injustice, and the natural environment.
Are films still relevant in this age of other viewing options?
“Going to the movies” and sitting in a darkened room where there is no distraction beyond what is on the giant screen before you, is a meaningful, shared human experience even if you find yourself simply laughing – or crying! – among strangers. Films are not just entertainment. Beyond the obvious benefits to local economies as patrons visit a theater and then linger somewhere to shop or dine, films are a reflection of life’s hopes and dreams, its beauty and its sorrows. Films spark meaningful conversations around a dinner table, and around a community. Even as they divert us with laughter and artful distraction, films can spark change. The re-opened Park Theater will aim to present film at its finest, its most engaging, and its most impactful, including programs geared for special-needs audiences.
What about competition from all the other venues in the region?
Our community, and our entire region, is changing and growing with the times. More housing is coming to downtown Lafayette and the accessibility of the re-imagined Park Theater will draw patrons who not only drive to the theater but also walk and ride their bikes. People seek diverse options for entertainment and TPTT believes that with CinemaSF guiding the programming, the reopened Park Theater will not only offer something for everyone but will also be a unique and equally exciting presence among the other shining lights of culture such as Town Hall Theater, Cal Shakes, The Lesher Center, and the Lafayette Library & Learning Center, to name just a few.
What are some examples of the “engaging, non-film events” you plan to offer?
Think Books to Movies discussion groups, Director/Actor screenside chats, Moms Morning Out, Open-Mic comedy, Saturday morning Cartoon Cinema, live music, and special live stream events. Truly something for everyone!
Will this conflict with other venues in town?
TPTT has looked carefully at use, programming, space, and rental numbers of the four other major entertainment venues – the Veterans Hall, the Lafayette Library & Learning Center, the Community Center, and Town Hall Theater – and we have spoken at length with the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. We have confirmed that a revitalized, multi-use Park Theater will be a welcome, vibrant, and versatile addition to the community’s other entertainment venues. We also believe that the reopened theater with the type of programming we are suggesting, will complement but not compete with existing offerings for children, teens, adults, and seniors, and will expand the overall arts, culture and “entertainment universe of Lafayette and our surrounding area.”
How much will this cost and how will you pay for it?
The $3 Million acquisition of the Park Theater building plus the adjacent four-plex was accomplished through a generous $2 Million donation from a developer and a generous matching fund challenge from a local philanthropic couple. Community donations plus a $500,000 grant from the City of Lafayette got us over the threshold to complete the purchase.
We now need to raise about $5 Million for the renovation which we hope to do through grants, planned fundraising activities, and private donations.
Once we meet “hard shell” requirements, our for-profit operator, CinemaSF will do the improvements required for its programming, and lease the building from TPTT.
What do you plan to do about parking?
The City has recently developed a new surface parking lot with 23 spaces within a 5-minute walk of the Park Theater that will be available for parking. In addition, TPTT has reached an agreement with the City to re-develop the rear of the property to create additional parking of ~ 33 spaces. There are also about 500 spaces – we counted! – within ¼ mile of the Park, which does not include possible street parking, private lot opportunities, nor the LLLC garage. The Park Theater will, of course, continue to be highly accessible by foot traffic, ride share, BART, and County Connection bus service as in the past.
Will the Park Theater building be available for rentals?
Yes – we anticipate there will be room rental opportunities for private parties and gatherings, as well as for use by other community groups.
What is the Policy on Marquee Messages?
Will there be a kitchen?
Our plan is to have a concession area as well as a commercial kitchen.
What about Outdoor facilities?
The Park Theater is nestled close to Lafayette Creek and we look forward to working with the Lafayette Creeks Committee and the Trails Subcommittee of the Parks, Trails & Recreation Commission to beautify the area with a green belt, pathway and park benches that perhaps will include chess and checker game tables, or if space permits, a tot lot.
Will you serve alcohol?
Yes, but we plan on featuring only local beers and wines.
How can I help?
The Park Theater originally came into being out of a desire for arts, culture, entertainment — and community — in downtown Lafayette. That was 1941, this is 2021 and the goal for a vibrant Downtown has not changed. The Park Theater can light up Lafayette again but to bring it back to life, we need community. We need YOU!
- Cash Donations
Click here to make your secure one-time or recurring donation via our secure donation form.
- Gifts of Stock and Securities
For information about gifts of appreciated assets, restricted/unrestricted stock, and/or bonds, please contact Jeanne Suh at Charles Schwab’s Walnut Creek office at 925-974-2979 or Jeanne.Suh@schwab.com and reference The Park Theater Trust account ending in 5757.
- Vehicle Donations
Contact Donate for Charity and donate your unwanted vehicle to this great cause. They handle all the necessary arrangements, and the Park Theater benefits by your generosity.
- Corporate Matching Gift Programs
To encourage philanthropy and support their communities, many companies “match” charitable contributions made by employees. If your employer offers this program, ask your HR department for a matching gift form to send to The Park Theater Trust along with your donation.