ALAMEDA, Calif - For 88 years the Alameda Theatre has stood in the middle of downtown Alameda, one of the last of the great art deco movie houses still standing in the Bay Area.
"It's a magical place," said owner Kyle Conner. But COVID-19 forced conner to close it in March, sending the historic landmark into deep financial straits.
"We've gone from 90 miles an hour on the track to zero in one hour. And we've been at zero for six months," he said.
The summer is typically the time for blockbusters, but not this year.
"I grew up in Alameda and I remember going to the kiddie matinees for school children," recalled Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft.
She says the historic theater, designed by the same architect as the Castro Theater in San Francisco, is no relic.
It's more than a place to catch a flick. It's hosted 49er Super Bowl watch parties, and fundraisers to improve playgrounds.
"It's been a catalyst for our downtown businesses. But also just a great gathering place for people," Ashcraft said.
The theater, restored more than a decade ago with all its ornamental detai, has no doubt played its share of tearjerkers over the years. But this story may not end up being one of them.
With many federal funds and grants for small businesses drying up, Alameda theatre lovers are stepping up.
They've created a Gofundme page to raise $100,000 to help save the theater, and have already reached more than 40% of that goal.
In the meantime, Conner has created a pop-up drive-in movie theater in a golf course parking lot. He's already installed a plan for when movie theaters are allowed to open with social distancing in mind.
"I'm not going to allow this theater to close," said Conner. "We will do whatever we have to to maintain it."