Center Theater Food and Film

The City Council will meet in private Tuesday to discuss the city’s potential purchase of the Center Theater and surrounding properties.
When the theater was last discussed earlier this month, supporters of a plan to turn it into a performing arts center that nurtures fledgling arts nonprofits made their pitch to the council. One thing going in their favor back then was that the alternative plan – a second run movie theater that serves dinner and drinks – no longer appeared viable in the Bay Area.

Similar establishments in Oakland and El Cerrito had just closed.

But now it looks like both theaters will reopen shortly. Several news stories about the Parkway and Cerrito theaters insinuate that their closings had more to do with their owners, not their business models. Click here for more.

Matt Artz


  1. The Varsity theatre on University / Palo Alto worked this formula for several years and had the advantages of significant foot traffic and well established nightlife.

    It’s a Barnes and Noble today.

  2. I thought the “Center Theater” now shows movies that appeal to the current population in the immediate area, i.e. those who live in “Little Kabul.”

    Is it not doing well enough support that? Otherwise that theater and its location is a joke. It shouldn’t be turned into a performing arts center unless it is going to appeal to the Little Kabul crowd. Those are the people who live there now, that’s it. That’s why Sizzler “got out of dodge” and that restaurant space sits completely empty on the corner of Peralta and Fremont: Nobody offers anything to cater to the Afghans there.

    If it’s not going to appeal to the afghans, it would be like putting an Italian restaurant in Chinatown. You just don’t do it.

  3. Muncie, your dated. Actually, on San Francisco’s Columbus Street you find a healthy mix of Chinese and Italian restaurants. Not like in the days you long for where one dare not cross the line.

    It’s as striking a difference as a women’s freedom in this country vs. Iran. One does, one does not. You don’t.

    I say build the Center Theater and long live the Human race!

  4. I’ll have to check out Chinatown, but way to miss the point here. That area is dominated by Afghans. They didn’t want Sizzler so sizzler left. Others tried family owned restaurants (remember Uncle Sam’s Buffet??), but it didn’t work. Nobody but Afghans make use of most businesses of the area, so it follows that Center Theater should appeal to afghans. I thought they already show Afghan movies or something. Don’t those do well enough?

  5. From the 2000 census, our Afghan population in Fremont is counted in the category “other Asian,” which includes Asians other than the big groups, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Taiwanese, and a few more. The entire category “other Asian” totals less than 4000 individuals.

    Centerville offers businesses a chance to open at minimal rents, so marginal businesses locate there hoping to make it. Unfortunately, as the Naz Theater has shown in three different locations, it is difficult to become successful in a business that only attracts a small percentage of the area population. And, where several compete directly against each other, chances of success diminish.

    Rick, the Sizzler chain went bankrupt, closing the Centerville store and the store in Newark near Stevenson (now an Indian restaurant). Other chains go out of business and close, regardless of how one store is doing.

  6. Rick,

    that center theater has been for sometime a part time Indian movie theater. You must know that movies are not encouraged in afganistan. I would say a second run theater with beer and pizza fits well with centerville. This will encourage more foot traffic, the streets are narrow at this stretch of fremont blvd. This might encourage business to move into the empty lot nearby.

  7. Rick,

    Gus is right. Fremont is no longer little kabul. They are getting priced out of fremont. If you have visited fremont, you must know we are becoming a indo-chinese town. I have a feeling this group might already be the majority in fremont.

  8. Folks…Final reports on the two concepts (Center Theater for the Performing Arts and the AMS “food and film” proposal) are available on the City’s website under http://www.fremont.gov/Centerville (click on the link for “Centerville Projects Underway”). The staff report favors the “food and film” proposal. I am an advocate of the Center for the Performing Arts and associated Cultural Arts Resource Center because it achieves all the goals of the AMS proposal, yet does not pose competition (food service) to area restaurants such as Minerva’s, Round Table Pizza, Hogie Steaks, Dinos, Salang Pass, the Kabob House and …my favorite…the Depot Diner. Notice the ethnic mix? I hear say that one of the owners of an above mentioned restaurant in Centerville is Portuguese, Norwegian and German! (He claims to be half Filipino now also…what a culture hog! go figure!) A food and film venue is a restaurant that shows films. How can it serve as a catalyst to area business when it competes with them? Also…google the El Cerito and Speakeasy theaters in the north bay. Study their business model and why they have gone bankrupt.
    Back on point… the food and film concept ignors the various arts groups (Fremont Symphony, Opera, Starstruck, Stage One and Fremont Film Forum) as their proposed stage will NOT accomodate productions of 4 of the 5 mentioned. If we ever hope to build a larger performing arts venue in this city we need to take “smaller steps” to build our arts organizations and create the demand that will support a 1500 seat center. Such a venue is 15 to 20 years off….and about $80M to $100M in cost. You can log onto the city website mentioned above and view our presentation to council on June 3rd that outlined the Center Theater for the Performing Arts and associated Cultural Arts Resource Center. It is right for Fremont and perfect for Centerville!

  9. Hi Dirk,
    That report you mention isn’t from city staff members; it’s from a consultant. I called about that. They say there’s no recommendation at this time. Issue goes back to council in late July.

  10. Never fear, performing arts fans, Newark to your rescue. The city wants to build a performing arts center on chemically enhanced land in Area 2. That location is now known as a TOD for Transit Oriented Development. Except, oops, there is no transit coming anytime soon and several parcels have deed restrictions. There is probably a site large enough for a tent with folding chairs. Will this do?

  11. “Fremont is no longer little kabul. ”

    I never said Fremont was little Kabul. I’m surprised anyone thought I meant that. Little Kabul is that part of Centerville where all the afghans live and shop. It happens to be that stretch of Fremont blvd between the railroad tracks and central ave. And many afghans live off central ave. Just look at those shops near the Round Table, they all cater to afghans.

    Perhaps afghans are leaving, and yes overall as I said Fremont is all Indian and Chinese, but that small stretch of Fremont Blvd. still feels like Little Kabul.

  12. Dirk Lorenz fails to mention that he owns Depot Diner (or so I must assume, having read several posts from him where he said he does). Of course he’s going to be against anything that would be competition for his business. Sheesh, Dirk, be up front about it.

  13. Matt,
    The link from the city website cites the “final report for the city of Fremont” and the recommendations contained within are as follows:

    AMS recommends that the City undertake several steps in order to ensure the best
    possible outcome for the future of the performing arts in Fremont.
    • Convene one or more town hall-style community workshops, in which
    community members may hear the results of this study and express their
    opinions, desires, and needs. In gatherings like this, the City should endeavor
    to build consensus around a plan and cultivate community leadership that
    will be critical to any plan’s success.
    • Begin working to acquire the Center Theater from the current owner, or
    obtain an option to acquire the theater at a later time at an established price.
    • Begin the process of identifying an operator for a renovated Center Theater.
    In the course of our research, AMS identified four current film venue or film
    and food venue operators who expressed preliminary interest in a new
    • Explore potential uses for the Centerville Fire Station, including, but not
    limited to: a home for city programs, community uses, commercial
    opportunities, etc.

    I am reading this as the recommended next steps in this “final” report.

  14. Thank you, Eyes – nice to know others are wise to this guy. If I’m not mistaken, he also owns Fremont Flowers, just a bit further down the Boulevard.

    Let me get real clear on something.

    Dirk says, “The staff report favors the “food and film” proposal.”

    Matt says, “That report you mention isn’t from city staff members; it’s from a consultant. . .They say there’s no recommendation at this time.”

    Somebody’s mis-spoken (aka,lying) here, because consultants are not City staff and either a recommendation was made or it was not.

    Would either one of you care to clarify this discrepancy?

  15. So contractors like AMS are now equivalent to City employees?

  16. FL, I am going to defend Dirk here. He says “…my favorite…the Depot Diner. Notice the ethnic mix? I hear say that one of the owners of an above mentioned restaurant in Centerville is Portuguese, Norwegian and German! (He claims to be half Filipino now also…what a culture hog! go figure!).”

    I believe he is taking it for granted those of us following this blog know that. I think it was his attempt at lighthearted humor. He notes it would be competition in the very beginning. I think he was being straight-forward with his opinion.

    Re: COF staff vs. consultant – I believe if the city contracts with someone to prepare a report they treat it as if they are staff. I could be all wet on this.

  17. Truly, Mr. Lorenz has become a wise little grasshopper in the ecosystem of local politics. He starts with a pet project that has the potential to benefit him personally and the City peripherally, pump it up constantly as if it is the greatest concept since sliced bread, cherry-pick a consultant who is paid to provide the recommendation that he wanted in the first place, and keep scratchin’ everybody else’s back until he and the other functionaries at City Hall and their pals at the Chamber of Commerce all get what they want.

    Enjoy it while it lasts, Dirk – not only is 12/31/09 coming, but we’ll all be voting for new Councilmembers before you know it. Time for a change.

  18. Friends,
    Doug is correct…. I am the owner of the Depot Diner mentioned above and I am the “cultural hog” I was referring to. To the degree that the Center Theater is a “pet project”… yep… it is. I’ve been at it for 9 years now. Hardly a track record that indicates my “scratchin'” has been very effective or I am one with a lot of political clout. Since I have ZERO plans to run for council (simply can’t afford it) that should please Fremont Lifer. As far as the cherry picked consultant… City found and chose Venuetech. Not me. As far as the “potential benefit to me personally”… yes, there is a selfish motive involved to a small degree. I want economic vitality in the Centerville District because I CAN personally benefit from increased sales at either my flower or coffee shop. I also see the Center Theater for the Performing Arts as a venue that will bring the community together. Just as it did in the late 1940’s when my grandparents brought their kids (my mom) to the movies on Saturday night. It was a place for the community to come together. The only way to achieve this goal is to have a venue that is relevant to all community members. Childrens Theater, Opera, Symphonic productions, specialty and art films…will all bring a diverse clientele. A new crowd every week.

    Now…regarding my earlier quote about “the final report” and the TWO consultants that recommended different plans for the Theater…. Matt was CORRECT… RDA staff has NOT made a recommendation. I apologize to both Matt and the Redevelopment agency for my assumption.

  19. Miracles never cease – Mr. Lorenz and I have found a point upon which we agree. He hasn’t been very effective during his time in office.

    While bringing the community together may be a nice slogan, the reality is that we are currently in a recession. With businesses closing down right and left, how many discounts and allowances is the City going to have to grant to allow this flawed concept to stay afloat? Of all of the economic sectors for the City to invest in at a time like this, a performance venue could not reasonably be considered a prudent investment at this time. Once it’s built, it’s our responsibility and we’re stuck with it. With so little money at the City’s disposal, and no assurance that things are going to turn around any time soon, is this really the way to spend what we’ve got?

    People, let’s get real about this for a minute. How many of your kids are going to get jobs at this place? Jobs that will allow them to even pay their rent, much less a mortgage payment?

    What I believe Fremont needs is sound business development in sectors that will bring long-term, professional, para-professional or skilled, well-paid, full-time jobs to town; green technology would be a plus. This performing arts concept does not sound like a particularly strong generator of either jobs or revenue to the City. We already have the water park; do we need another hole to pour City money into?

    What would truly bring this town together is to strategically plan our growth to balance business development, housing and transit to bring us out of this economic slump. Constant General Plan amendments that benefit the Council and Commission’s pals on the Chamber of Commerce must stop. Getting the City to work with the School District wouldn’t hurt either. This venture would not bring us any closer to satisfying any of the real, pressing needs of City residents.

    On second thought, Mr. Lorenz has been successful in a couple of areas:

    He’s kept this concept on life support for at least 9 years. If he had remained a private citizen, it would have died a natural death a long time ago, and

    He’s presided, with the other current Council and Commission members, in the continued decline in both the level of trust that the citizens have for their local representatives and the general quality of life in this town.

    Good job.

    BTW, don’t even try to throw that sad grandparents story out there to try to justify your folly – there’s a lot of us who’ve been here longer than y’all.

  20. FL, sounds like you’ve developed a platform to run for local government.

  21. I dont see how a film and food venue will affect nearby restaurants. It might turn out to help them actually. I am sceptical about the performing arts center in centerville, maybe some place in mission.

  22. Why not tear down Cinedome and use that site for a Performing Arts Center? Seems to make more sense than the Center Theater.

  23. Of course I meant Cinedome 8 East. It’s sitting there empty wasting space.

  24. I just read the report. In summary, it says center theatre as a performing arts venue is not going to have any takers. Food and film venue is more viable. Makes more sense to me.

  25. There are two reports… one from AMS…that talks of a Film and Food venue(which is the one I believe Andy refers to) and the one from Venuetech, performing arts related. It was somewhat confusing to me that the AMS was labeled “Final”… yet no decision has been made regarding the preferred plan. I did not click on the link for the Venuetech proposal…but will do so to see how it is presented. The AMS report contains arguments to support their conclusions, as does the Venuetech plan.
    Rick does not have a bad idea about using the Cinedom 8 site… yet it is private property so the cost of the land plus building costs would be upwards of $30M. Part of the problem was mentioned earlier… a project such as this must be revenue neutral to the city. We have higher priorities at this time. (Police, fire and maintenance) The intent of either of the plans for the Center Theater is to create a venue that does NOT cost the city any general fund money for ongoing operations. It will be up to the council to decide which plan will achieve that goal best. Yes…I will lobby for the performing arts plan. I feel it does more for our arts community and has the support of our symphony, opera, the FCAC as well as other identified as our primary partners. What’s in it for me? I do hope to sell an additional sandwich or two or an occasional bouquet of flowers by those who come to the area. Not a windfall by any means…but a step in the right direction insofar as creating a more economically viral Centerville.

  26. Dirk, but why do you think film and food venue will not bring new customers to your establishments?

  27. Dirk, did you mean, “…vital Centerville?”

    Corporate relationships need to be established to fund projects such as a performing arts center. Cities are and will be cash poor for a long time to come.

    Here’s an idea. Turn the current FPD HQ into a performing arts center. Forget the earthquake retrofit. The city can write it off and it’s centrally located in the middle of town!

  28. Turning FPD HQ into perf artz center ? – So the city can “write off” the present facility (that write off will have an economic impact on the balance sheet – perhaps it’s not cash BUT) – but then has to plan and construct another which, by the time this council bids, plans, renegotiates, rebids, re-retrofits, heck- the poor P.D. will be living out of trailers until Centerville gets a . . . . . . tenant.

    Also retrofitting of the existing HQ into something appropos for PA center will cost (significantly – me thinks – to add in basic stage/seating) . . . . .

    Maybe this was some tongue-in-cheek levity which is seemingly so prevalent on this BLOG of late (?) if so, sorry I missed it Doug.

  29. Bbox231…you missed it. Levity, yes. Brevity, no (post no. 19). Now back to vital vs. viral.

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