The Orinda Theater opened with William Holden in “Texas” on December 27, 1941. The theater was designed and operated by Donald Rheem. Slated for demolition in 1984, it was saved through conservation efforts and re-opened in 1989 as the center of the Theater Square Project — a retail / entertainment redevelopment project. Two additional screens were constructed within the adjacent retail space, leaving the original screen intact. The original lobby and the main theater remained intact. The murals in the # 2 added theaters were saved from the Garden Theater in San Jose when it was demolished.

Orinda Theater Square is conveniently located off Highway 24 just east of the Caldecott Tunnel on Pablo Road. Theater Square is located adjacent to and served by the Orinda Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) station.

The main auditorium is huge and has been designed for plays and other theater performances that now have a giant screen that is used for movies. There are also two smaller screens on the side. When you go inside, you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time since the decor and the rugs, etc. are all very old, which is fantastic. The bathrooms have small sitting rooms, and the popcorn bags are a throwback to an era gone.

The seats in the theaters are pretty worn and sluggish. Although, you usually have the choice of where you want to sit. If you’re going on a weekend night, it can get packed, but out of those days, there’s hardly anyone out there. I saw movies on Thursday, like the Avengers, with only ten people in the entire theater.

The biggest downside to the theater is the snacks. The popcorn is faint-hearted every time I get it. Since it’s a small theater, food has been sitting there for a long time. If you choose to spend your money, make sure it’s all fresh. The packaging is neat; it all looks very retro and 1970s-old. The staff are always super nice and keep the place clean.

Tickets are about $12 per person, although there are discount days, and every Tuesday they show a free classic black-and-white movie. They also bring older actors to show movies and to do small community events.

Under the movie theater (entrance to the left side) is a parking garage that is free on weekends and free of charge with validation of tickets. The film theater is validating. There’s also free street parking around the theater, but it’s often packed.

There are some great restaurants around the theater, including a small bar for a pre-show alcoholic trip. If you’re going to take a shot and a handful of pretzels, this is the place for you. There’s also a Starbucks nearby, if that’s more of your taste. They don’t mind having drinks outside.

Building inside and out is really cool, capturing the nostalgia of an old Art Deco theater. Don’t expect the conventional film experience to be here. The sound and the screen were adequate and clean and comfortable in and around the seats. There’s a lot of film displays and artwork that adds to the experience.

This well-known attraction is located near the following must-see sites in Orinda, California:

  • Orinda Community Center Park and Tennis Courts
  • Orinda Oaks Park
  • Siesta Valley Recreation Area
  • Orinda Library
  • Bruns Memorial Amphitheater
  • Tilden Regional Park
  • Briones Overlook 
  • Scotts Peak Trailhead

All of these wonderful offices are located just a short distance from our location on Boulevard Circle in historic Walnut Creek, California. Stop by for a visit anytime!