The Reel Less Traveled – March 2022


Victorians And Verdicts

    There is no other theater quite like the Orinda Theatre. The Bay Area has its share of grand movie palaces such as the Castro and the Grand Lake. The two architectural marvels which originally showed movies, the Fox and the Paramount in Oakland, also come to mind. But it is the Orinda Theatre that stands apart, partly due to its location, but more because it’s not afraid to show its neon grandeur.
    To this point, not enough praise can be heaped upon Derek Zemrak and his crew who have managed to bring much of the Lamorinda community together not only to save this theater, but to enable it to thrive.
    The neon continues to burn brightly and the lights in the foyer chase away the darkness while providing an illuminating invitation to art lovers of every stripe to enter. The interior carpets and murals continue this welcoming trend.
    But if you think Zemrak was content with just staying open, you haven’t been paying attention.
    Therefore, it is with great delight I inform you that the Orinda Theatre has undergone a welcome refurbishment with the installation of new curtains and screens in the two smaller venues. Now you will be witness to a new vitality when you go to the movies, which leads me right to the two special programs these improvements will make all the more enjoyable.
    Let’s start with the Chiller Diller Theatre. Lord Blood-Rah is pleased to present First Men in the Moon (1964). Though his contribution is relatively minor compared to some of his other films, this movie is mostly known for its effects work by stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen.
    Based on a book by H.G. Wells, the plot tells the “real” story about who got to the moon first. (Hint: It wasn’t us.) It will screen on Saturday, March 19 at 9:30 p.m. For more information, visit Also, make sure to check out the Orinda Theatre’s Facebook page for additional special programs and concerts.
    The International Film Showcase will also contribute to lighting up one of the new screens with its March selection The Judgement. Based on a non-fiction book about a murder case, it follows a determined journalist who is unconvinced that the sentence passed down was just. In this story, real life often mirrors fiction in that the quest for what actually happened and who actually committed this ghastly crime is met with obstacles of every sort.
    Frustrations run high and, doubtless, you will be swept up in the emotional maelstrom, which is exactly what this sort of film aims to do. Art should, sometimes, be challenging, something Showcase organizers Efi Lubliner and Jo Alice Canterbury hope you accept. A date is not set yet, but check for show times and trailers.
    So now all that’s left is for everyone to get to the Orinda Theatre to check out the new enhancements. Those wonderful images made of sound and light will shine all the brighter now, and that’s where the “reel” magic lies.

Tom Westlake can be reached at

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