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Newly Renovated Elmwood Theater To Open Soon By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday July 12, 2005

On July 28 the curtain is scheduled to rise once again at the Elmwood Theater, operator Greg King said Monday. 

The three-screen centerpiece of College Avenue’s Elmwood Shopping District has been closed for nearly a year. A nearby broken sewer line flooded the theater last October. 

The theater is owned by the Elmwood Theater Foundation, formed by local merchants and residents, and is the beneficiary of the Elmwood business improvement district. 

Repair work was scheduled to be complete by Thanksgiving, but a series of delays stalled the project, said King. 

King said the interior work on the theater is complete and all that remains is some exterior seismic upgrade work. The theater foundation, under pressure from the city, decided to retrofit the building while making repairs from the sewer damage. 

The building had been retrofitted in 1994, but the theater never received a final city inspection, and in 2000 the city tightened requirements for masonry structures like the theater. Berkeley loaned the foundation $90,000 for the seismic work. 

The sewer damage caused more damage than initially realized, King said. Floors were stripped to the dirt and reinforced walls from the 1994 seismic work were torn down. Sewer repairs weren’t completed until January, he said, in part because of a fee dispute between the contractor and the insurance company. 

The seismic work also ran into delays, King said. Among the difficulties, he said, were a lack of construction coordination and bureaucratic hurdles as the theater attempted to get a city permit for a new level floor designed for patrons in wheelchairs. 

The exterior seismic work won’t be complete by July 28, but King said the theater should be in good enough shape to welcome back customers. 

He expected most of the theater’s former employees, many of whom have been collecting unemployment insurance, to return. Also the theater will now control its concession stand, which he said would offer more upscale selections. 

John Moriarty, a member of the Elmwood Theater Foundation, said he expected patrons to be impressed by its new interior. 

“There will be new seats, new floors, new carpets,” he said. “When it opens it will be wonderful.”