The East Bay's Independent Movie Theaters

Tired of the lack of character and charm in those generic chain movie theaters? You’re in luck! The East Bay has several movie ​theaters where you can relax and enjoy recent favorites or alternative films from classic to foreign to independent.

See you at the movies!

  • 01 of 08

    3200 Grand Ave.
    Oakland, CA 94610
    (510) 452-3556

    The Historic Grand Lake Theater opened in 1926 playing home to Vaudeville shows and silent movies. These then-popular shows ended when the ‘talkies’ burst onto the scene.

    The art deco theater features 4 screens and a rotary contact sign measuring 52 feet by 72 feet tall.

    If you're local to the area, you probably recognize the Grand Lake Theater as the one that makes bold political statements. The marquee is just as likely to display a snippet of social commentary as a list of movies.

  • 02 of 08
    Sebastiaan Kroes/Getty Images

    2025 Broadway
    Oakland, CA 94612
    (510) 465-6400

    Built in 1931, the Paramount Theatre is another excellent example of art deco design. It holds the designation as a California Registered Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. The designations easily justify the $5 cost for the 2-hour tour offered the first and third Saturdays of the month.

    The theater is home to the Oakland East Bay Symphony. It offers premiere entertainment all year long. In addition to special movie events, you can come here to see concerts and other live shows.

  • 03 of 08

    The Piedmont Theatre

    Jeff Mendelson / EyeEm/Getty Images

    4186 Piedmont Ave
    Oakland, CA 94611
    (510) 464-5980

    Operated by Landmark Theatres, the Piedmont has 3 screens and is the oldest movie theater in Oakland. The doors first opened in 1917 for silent films, making this the oldest operating movie theater in the city.

    Today, the Piedmont focuses on independent and art films.

    A thorough remodeling has restored the theater to its vintage splendor. Go on a Saturday night for extra excitement; prizes and film-related memorabilia are given away prior to screenings.

  • 04 of 08
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    1115 Solano Ave
    Albany, CA 94706
    (510) 464-5980

    Located on the bustling Solano Avenue, the Albany Twin brings a note of vintage charm into a thoroughly modern area.

    Built in the 1920s as a meeting hall, the Albany Twin offers two screens (as you may have guessed from its name). Here you can still experience the classic charm of an old movie house combined with all the benefits of modern technology.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    2113 Kittredge St
    Berkeley, CA 94704
    (510) 464-5980

    The California Theatre, known more informally as simply “The Cal”, was built in 1913 as a live performance theater.

    If you're a UC Berkeley student or a fan of public transportation, this theater is a great choice. It's located within an easy walk of both the campus and the Downtown Berkeley BART station.

    One of the three screens here is the largest in Berkeley. Be careful, though; inadequate leg room, especially for the screens upstairs, is a problem for some.

  • 06 of 08
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    2230 Shattuck Avenue
    Berkeley, CA 94704
    (510) 464-5980

    Like the California Theatre, the Shattuck Cinemas is conveniently located for UC Berkeley students and BART takers. In fact, these two theaters are just around the corner from each other.

    That's where many of the similarities stop, however. The Shattuck's home is a modern building, built in the late 1980s. It offers 10 screens, allowing this venue to present a wide range of films including everything from indies to major Hollywood movies.

  • 07 of 08
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    2966 College Ave
    Berkeley, CA 94705
    (510) 433-9730

    Downtown Berkeley may have more than its fair share of wonderful, independent theaters – but that doesn't mean they can't be found elsewhere!

    If you're in the Elmwood area, check out the Elmwood Theatre. Operated by Rialto Cinemas, this theater focuses on independent and foreign movies with some of the “best quality films from Hollywood” thrown into the mix.

    Give yourself some extra time to walk around the neighborhood before or after the film. This part of College Avenue has some wonderful shops and restaurants to explore.

  • 08 of 08
    Rialto Cinemas Cerrito/Getty Images

    10070 San Pablo Ave
    El Cerrito, CA 94530
    (510) 273-9102

    Board of popcorn, hot dogs and stale candy? The Rialto Cinemas Cerrito will provide a welcome change. The menu includes a wide selection of food ranging from salads and sandwiches to nachos and pizza. You'll also be able to choose from around 10 beers, most of which are a draft. You can choose from a similar number of wines, or even bring your own (though you'll have to pay a corkage fee).

    Don't worry, though – the Cerrito doesn't focus on its menu so much that it loses sight of its real purpose. From Hollywood hits to quirky films that it's hard to find anywhere else, the Cerrito offers a diverse selection.