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Owner of historic Orinda Theater says booming PG&E bills forcing him to make changes

Recent PG&E rate hikes have led to complaints from customers across California, but now, an Orinda theater says those booming bills are forcing them to change how they do business.

“It’s kind of like old Hollywood,” said Derek Zemrak, operator and owner of the Orinda Theatre. “It’s because you’re brought back to somewhere, you’re transported somewhere else in a different time to watch one of those classic movies on the big screen with people laughing and crying with you.”

But keeping the lights on at Zemrak’s historic Orinda Theatre just got a whole lot tougher.

“All of a sudden I looked at the bank account and where did the money go? Pulled it up online and there was a $6,200 plus bill debit from PG&E,” he said.

Zemrak said the $6,200 bill was nearly $2,000 more than his usual winter bill. 

“I was just like that’s just ridiculous. How could we be paying that much money for utilities?” he said.

Zemrak says the theater just doesn’t generate enough to cover that kind of bill, so starting next week he’ll close on Mondays and Tuesdays and from now on the iconic lighted marquee will stay dark. 

“It is a very tough choice but the reality is we can’t function,” he said. “The numbers don’t correlate … It’s really sad and it really speaks to the larger issue of the rates that are going up for everybody.”

Theater patrons say they’ll miss the signature lighted signage that’s always been visible at night from Highway 24. 

“It’s familiar and it’s comforting to see it and also I think it is iconic of the culture here,” said Bill Filler. 

“We’ve seen the PG&E bills go up and it’s ridiculous and that’s kind of sad to see such an icon like this in our community have to make a tough choice like that,” said Darius Mojahed. 

In a statement PG&E said, “A representative from our Small Business Engagement team has reached out to the Orinda Theatre to go over their bill, and review rates, energy efficiency options and other programs that may help … our goal is for the Orinda Theater to thrive.”

Zemrak hopes PG&E might offer some relief so the East Bay treasure’s silver screen can continue entertaining movie goers as it has since 1941. 

“My hope is to be able to continue, keep the doors open. That’s the goal,” said Zemrak. 


Source: NBC Bay Area

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