Our Story

The Elmwood Theatre has a long history in Berkeley and was one of the first businesses to open in the Elmwood District. The building opened as the Strand in 1919 as a neighborhood theatre “catering to the family.” In 1947, after a six-year closure during World War II, it reopened as the Elmwood, “Berkeley’s show house for outstanding foreign films.”

In June 2007 Rialto Cinemas took over operation of the theatre and returned it to its arthouse roots and chose a spirit line that communicated its historic roots, “Berkeley’s Best Neighborhood Movie Theatre.”

We consider the theatre to be a third place in Berkeley – a spot where the community gathers to share a common experience. We regularly host East Bay nonprofit organizations for film-based fundraisers and events and have hosted many filmmakers when we’ve shown their films in Berkeley.

Through perseverance, sheer force of will, and a little luck along the way Rialto Cinemas Elmwood has soldiered on as Berkeley’s only independently owned movie theatre. We’ve made a significant impact with our alternative-content programming. Rialto Cinemas Elmwood was in the first group of 63 theatres worldwide to screen National Theatre Live’s productions starting with Phedre when nobody knew what National Theatre Live was. Rialto Cinemas Elmwood played a key role in bring recognition to National Theatre Live as a vital brand. Today Rialto Cinemas Elmwood continues to be Berkeley’s only independently owned movie theatre.  In an era when a number of Berkeley theatres have closed or have had their existence threatened, we are proud to continue showing movies and events in Berkeley’s best neighborhood.  We look forward to entertaining you soon!