The Los Gatos Theatre has been shuttered since the pandemic but now plans are moving ahead for the locally owned CineLux chain to reopen the theater.
Although a reopening date has not been set, CineLux owner Paul Gunsky expects to be showing flicks and selling popcorn by late summer or early fall.
“We have to tune-up some equipment and hire staff,” he said.
The search for a new operator began late last year after the former owners/operators, the Goetz family, donated the theater to the town.
So, when the town issued a request for a new operator, Gunsky was one of three respondents who applied for the opportunity. An independent panel voted unanimously to accept Gunsky’s proposal, which was unanimously approved by the town council at its June 28 meeting.
“You’ll see the programming is going to be prioritized to continue as primarily a film operator,” assistant town manager Arn Andrews said. “There is going to be a component of us participating in the gross revenues of the theater and there will also be a component of an actual rent associated with the theater.”
The first year’s rent is free. Andrews said it will increase to $5,000 per month in the second year and $10,000 per month for the remaining three years of the five-year lease.
The rents reflect the town’s desire to set up CineLux for post-Covid success, Andrews said.
The new lease also requires CineLux to make the theater available to nonprofits and community groups—free of charge—at least six times a year; the town gets it rent-free twice a year.
“They’re very comfortable helping nonprofits and the community throughout their theater chain,” Andrews said.
That sentiment was echoed by Los Gatos Education Foundation executive director Deborah Weinstein.
“The Gunskys were also a family that went through the schools of Los Gatos. They had students at Lexington, at Fisher and then Los Gatos High School…and they were very supportive of the Los Gatos Education Foundation,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein and Gunsky worked together on a 2021 LGEF fundraiser that was held last December at the Campbell theater.
“Working with Paul was just a pleasure. He was able to allow us to have the facility, and actually he organized and staffed the event for us,” Weinstein said.
Gunsky has been in the movie business since his parents opened the Campbell theater at 2501 S. Winchester Blvd. in 1966.
In those days, independent operators drove to a “film depot” in Redwood City – and that’s where Gunsky’s story with the Los Gatos Theatre begins.
“My history goes way back to when Carmel Cormack operated the theater,” he said. “I used to go pick up film for her at the film depot when we used to operate 35mm projectors.”
Cormack owned and operated the theater when the 1989 earthquake devastated Los Gatos. Post-quake, she wanted to demolish the theater and rebuild it as a three-story theater/restaurant. The town said, “no.”
The original Los Gatos Theatre opened as the Strand in 1915.
When Cormack died in 2011, the theater was purchased by the Goetz family of Los Gatos. They gutted and remodeled it, returning it to its Art Deco splendor.
It reopened in 2014.
“We were fortunate to work with the Goetz family as they reopened the theater,” Gunsky said. “I’ve been in this business my entire life and have remodeled a handful of theaters and I understand the process that goes into it. I could not get over the level of upgrades that were put into this magnificent theater. It is in better shape than it has ever been in and to have the opportunity to come in and be the steward going forward is quite an honor.“
Gunsky described the opportunity to operate the theater as a “great responsibility” but says he’s up to the challenge.