Home NEWS Arts MORAGA/ORINDA: Neon Ladies Up For Grabs; Theaters Up For Sale

MORAGA/ORINDA: Neon Ladies Up For Grabs; Theaters Up For Sale

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Valiant attempts to keep two Lamorinda theaters running have worked in the past.

Lamorindans who stole a kiss in the back row of the Rheem or Orinda theaters growing up may have contributed to latter day efforts to keep the two Neon Ladies alive when the movie houses fell on hard times – but even those valiant past efforts don’t seem to have been enough.

In what appears to be a simple matter of economics, owner Mahesh Puri has quietly put the Rheem Theatre – bravely branded in recent years as the NEW Rheem Theatre – on the marketplace. Asking price: $4.25 million. And all the popcorn the new owner can eat.

Rumor has it that there is interest among potential buyers, but their vision for the two movie houses remains unknown.

In Orinda, the city’s landmark cinema is part of a package deal that includes surrounding shops, restaurants, offices and the underground parking structure. Asking price: Unknown, but probably more than the $29 million GLL Properties shelled out for Orinda Theatre Square in 2006.

Photo: Orinda Theatre bathed in a good light. CREDIT: Rick Kattenburg

The two aging queens, a favorite of photographers looking for a fast way to identify our relatively nondescript suburban communities, have tried a number of gimmicks over the years to draw new customers and keep old ones. Hip Hop teen dance parties at the New Rheem went awry and were gradually dropped after incidents of violence and increasing police action. A burglar added insult to injury by creeping into the Rheem’s office one night and stealing cash. Both theaters have had to pony up tens of thousands of dollars for new projection equipment and ADA compliance measures – all of which contributed to a revenue decline in an age where moviegoers opted to build their own theaters at home, equipping them with everything from reclining chairs and popcorn machines.