Contra Costa Times (California)
April 1, 2011 Friday
MY TOWN; Contra Costa; News; Local
Pair behind Rheem Theatre turnaround take over at Orinda
By Jonathan Morales Contra Costa Times
ORINDA — The owners of this city’s art deco movie theater saw the success story at Moraga’s Rheem Theatre, and they’re hoping for a sequel.
Derek Zemrak and Leonard Pirkle, who run the Rheem as well as the California Independent Film Festival, took over operations at the Orinda Theatre on March 25, Theatre Square owner GLL Real Estate Partners announced last week.
"It’s a great opportunity to expand the film programming and the different types of programs that we can offer the community," said Zemrak, the film festival’s founder.
The Rheem Theatre has four screens, the Orinda three. Zemrak and Pirkle plan to run the theaters as a "seven-plex" that just happens to be in two locations, meaning if a movie is playing in Orinda, it might not be in Moraga.
"It’s really positive that the two theaters are not competing against each other," Zemrak said.
The film festival took over the closed Rheem Theatre last summer, bringing with them their signature event and quickly breathing new life into the facility with special screenings and events.
The owners of Theatre Square — the collection of shops, restaurants and offices surrounding the Orinda Theatre — took notice. When their agreement with the previous operators expired, GLL jumped at the opportunity to bring Zemrak and Pirkle on board.
"We just saw that they were doing a tremendously good job in Moraga," said Peter Wenzel, an asset manager with GLL.
Wenzel praised Zemrak in particular for his ability to work with the community to make the theater and the surrounding area successful.
"The theater is the heart of the Theatre Square shopping center, so our hope is certainly that the new managers "… (are) going to be able to use the theater and all the retailers around the theater to organize events," he said.
Programming and hours at the Orinda Theatre will expand, Zemrak said, but the California Independent Film Festival’s namesake event will stay in Moraga.
"We had tremendous support from the community of Moraga," he said. "That’s where we see the film festival."
A "grand reopening" of the Orinda Theatre is tentatively scheduled for this month.
Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan .