Published December 9th, 2009
Saving Rheem Theatre
By Sophie Braccini
Jazmine Milbridge's Facebook page can be found online through "Don't let Rheem Theatre close" Screenshot
The announcement last month that the Rheem Theatre in Moraga could close due to declining sales spurred a community response of large magnitude. Called upon by Moraga Chamber of Commerce President Edy Schwartz, a group of about 15 residents gathered on December 3rd at the Hacienda de la Flores to brainstorm solutions.
Representing the Rheem Theatre were Mike Puri, who owns the property, and Jim Sheehan and Tom Peterson, who own and operate the business; all came on short notice. The Town of Moraga was represented by Mayor Dave Trotter, Council Member Howard Harpham and Town Manager Mike Segrest. Residents representing diverse community groups in town were also in attendance, among them Frank Melīn, General Manager of the Moraga Country Club; Kathy Ranstrom, an active school volunteer, Ellen Beans of the Moraga Citizens Network; Laura Olsen of Lamorinda Moms and the Moraga Juniors; George Fisher, the Moraga Movers; John Haffner, Moraga Parks and Recreation Foundation, Tim Farley of Saint Mary's College; and Jazmine Milbridge, the Campolindo student who started the Facebook group, "Don't let Rheem Theater close."
"When people heard that the theater might close, it prompted an emotional reaction to a great loss," says Schwartz. Each participant to the meeting had been asked to reach out to his or her constituency and bring ideas both for the short and long term survival of the local landmark.
"This was a brain-storming session and many great ideas were proposed," Schwartz explains, "we will meet again shortly to discuss the implementation, but what came out of it was a feeling of a community getting together to save something that has historical meaning and is close to their heart, and I think that the property and business owners want to continue to work with us and make this succeed."
Among other ideas was to continue to have blockbusters in the main theater and to show more specialized films such as foreign movies in the smaller rooms during the week, to extend the last showing from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., to participate more in "community marketing," or to partner with local restaurants to have an economic package for dinner and a show. "We encourage people who are interested in the growth of our theater to come forward and join in this effort," said Schwartz. Those interested can send an email to

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Copyright Lamorinda Weekly, Moraga CA