A new concert venue opened its doors last month in Menlo Park, where the San Francisco Peninsula’s last remaining single-screen movie theater received a $35 million facelift in order to accommodate live music and entertainment. 

The Guild Theatre at 949 El Camino Real was the first movie theater on the Peninsula when it was built in 1926. In recent years, it had been a popular destination for lovers of independent and foreign films. Unfortunately, it was not popular enough to remain in business, and hosted its final screening in 2019. 

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The theater got a second chance at life thanks to the Peninsula Arts Guild, a nonprofit founded in 2017 by Menlo Park resident Drew Dunlevie with the mission to develop a concert venue in the 650 area code, which roughly stretches from Daly City in the north to Sunnyvale in the south. 

“This is the most widely supported thing in the history of Menlo Park,” Dunlevie said. “I had a city councilmember email me and say, Drew, please tell these [residents] to stop emailing us.”

The Guild Theatre in downtown Menlo Park received a $35 million renovation to convert it from a single-screen movie house into a music venue. (Photo courtesy Paige K. Parsons)

Dunlevie said he responded by telling the councilmember that the emails flooding their inbox could not be stopped “because the people wanted this [to happen] so badly.”   

The private inaugural event on Feb. 24 featured performances from Bay Area artists Freddy Clarke and Reid Genauer, the front man for the bands Strangefolk and Assembly of Dust.  

“We’ve been longing for something like this for the past seven years we’ve lived here,” said 42-year-old Menlo Park resident Rabie Zahri on opening night. 

Dunlevie thanked the founding donors “who wrote a very large check out of the goodness of their heart just to make the neighborhood a little better” in his speech. “Silicon Valley gets a ton of [flak] everywhere in the press and the funny HBO show, but there’s so much philanthropy and kindness here,” he said.  

The venue hosted four-time Grammy Award-winning jazz and soul artist Robert Glasper on Feb. 25, marking the first ticketed public event at the newly renovated Guild Theatre. Glasper released his 11th studio album “Black Radio III” on the same day, featuring vocal assistance from H.E.R., Ledisi, India.Arie, Ty Dolla $ign, Jennifer Hudson, Ant Clemons, BJ the Chicago Kid and Yebba, among others. 

Upcoming events at the Guild include performances from Bay Area rapper Lyrics Born on Friday, alt-rock band The Samples on Saturday, and a two-night stint by the popular ’60s rock band Three Dog Night on March 19 & 20. The venue will also host notable artists like singer-songwriter Macy Gray, who is set to represent Ohio in NBC’s “American Song Contest,” in April and saxophonist Kamasi Washington in July. 

For tickets and more information, visit https://guildtheatre.com/.