The Art Deco Cerrito Theater operated between 1937-1962 as a "popcorn palace" that was the center of town life. When it closed, it was converted into a furniture warehouse until 2002 when the building was offered for sale. Community activists persuaded the City of El Cerrito to purchase the building and the theater was rehabilitated into a modern movie house while preserving its historic character.
Designed by William David, a flamboyant architect who built a number of theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area, The Cerrito featured his trademark oval: a jewel-box lobby featuring an etched mirror – with goddess Diana hunting – over the refreshment counter. Deco chandeliers and wall sconces highlighted a barrel-vaulted theater dominated by an elegant proscenium adorned with a Deco mural featuring Zeus and nymphs and warriors. The renovated theater now contains 2 screens and a full commercial kitchen.
This unique dinner theater is now revitalizing a neighborhood undergoing major transformations. In an era when most single screen theaters are being torn down, the Cerrito is noteworthy as a “popcorn palace” restored to its original purpose. The project was done as a joint venture with Jeri Holan Architects