The Varsity from across 2nd Street - 2003

616 2nd Street (between E St. and F St.)
Website (with Showtimes)
Movie Times Recording (530) 758-5284
Direct line (530) 758-5264
Ticket Prices
Students (with valid ID)
Matinees (before 6:00pm)
Children (under 12)
Seniors (over 60)
Tuesday shows

The Varsity Theatre is the place to go in Davis to see art house, foreign and independent films that are often not shown at the other theaters in town. They have two screens: The larger theater seats 270; the smaller seats 97, with stadium seating. The Varsity has digital 3D projection capabilities.

Matinee prices are for all showings except the last two of the day (usually any show before 6:30 p.m.). Tuesday discount does not apply during the first two weeks of a film's showing.

News from the Varsity Theatre Newsletter

This past Tuesday, October 16th, the Davis City Council unanimously approved a resolution to hire a consultant for the preparation of architectural plans to add a second screen to the Varsity Theatre. We propose to expand the Varsity Theatre to include a 300 seat Grand Theatre where the current 333 seat theatre is located, and a 100 seat Stadium Theatre in the current under-utilized space at the back of the theatre. The Stadium Theatre will be accessible from the lobby via a Hallway Gallery where poster cases of past favorite Varsity films will be displayed along with local art. The only affect on the current theatre will be the requirement to move the side walls in approximately 6 ft (on one side at least). The cost of the screen will be financed primarily by the City's Redevelopment Agency. According to city estimates, the cost of the improvements will be repaid in 10-12 years. The city will own all of the improvements. The addition of a second screen will ensure that the Varsity Theatre will be a vibrant, well-maintained, cultural and architectural icon of the city for many years to come. We hope to have the second screen in operation by September of 2008.

Current Status

The theater re-opened for business on April 6, 2006 with the Mad Cow String Band performing, a documentary about the theater with interviews of employees going back to the 1940's narrated by Bob Dunning, and a screening of the film, Thank You For Smoking. Attendance of the event was a regular who's who of Davis luminaries, from educators and entrepreneurs to politicos and the press.

In addition to a total redecoration including a new screen, sound system, seats and concession stand, a brand new (opened July 24) gelato/ice cream/cappuccino cafe called Icekrimski Cafe will be located in the small former office space on the left of the building. This cafe will also be accessible from the theater lobby. The new seats are said to be VERY comfortable, and the arms in the new seats at the back of the theater (in the platform area) move up and form love seats. Jon Fenske has commented that he figured that is where the "cuddlers" would like to sit anyway.

In the lobby are photos of 4 art deco paintings that were prominent in the theater. The only thing noticeably left to do in the remodel is the recreation of these paintings on the walls of the theater, on top of the 4 big yellow acoustic panels.

The new Varsity will function primarily as an art house cinema, showing first-run independent films.

Interior of the Varsity, Feb 16th 2006 Interior of the Varsity, Mar 23rd 2006 Interior of the Varsity, Apr 7th 2006 Lobby of the Varsity, Mar 4th 2006 Lobby of the Varsity, Apr 7th 2006

Concession Prices

-Large (with free refills)
Apple juice
-Large (with free refills)

T-Shirts are now available and they cost only $10!


The Varsity is a late example of what is known as Streamline Moderne, a style related to Art Deco, which was influenced by 20th century manufacturing techniques. Moderne buildings were designed with an emphasis on smooth curves and horizontal lines to give a feeling of speed. Various moderne features are apparent in the Varsity's facade. The overhang angles out from the left hand side and is embellished at night with horizontal lines of red neon. Below this, the front wall of the theater angles backwards to mirror the overhang before curving smoothly around to meet the extremity of the right-hand wall. The horizontal line formed by the top of the doors is continued by the chrome trim on the roof of the curved box office. On the roof, the "tower" at the right features alternating horizontal bands of red and blue neon.


The Varsity Theater was built by a local company in 1949 for the Westside Valley Theater Company. The Architect was William B. David, who designed many Streamline Moderne style cinemas in northern California, including the Tower in Sacramento. The 703 seat Varsity opened June 9th 1950, with "The Eagle and the Hawk" starring John Payne. It was the first building in Davis to have air conditioning. See a 1951 photo of the Varsity from the Eastman Collection.

In 1976 Westside Valley Theaters split the cinema down the middle and installed two smaller screens, allowing them more flexibility with schedules. The Varsity was eventually taken over by Signature Theaters. In the late eighties Signature got permission from the city council to build two new multi-screen cinemas. In 1990, the Varsity showed its last movies (ironically titled: "Taking Care of Business" and "Flatliners"). To save the building from being demolished, the city started leasing it from Signature and turned it into a performing arts space. It underwent another renovation, gaining a stage and losing its snack bar and roughly half its seats. It re-opened as a community theater on October 10th 1992.

It continued as a community theater for 14 years, during which time the City Council bought the building. However, despite Davis Musical Theater Company producing around ten musicals per year in the theater, it was frequently dark, and the City Council resolved to find a way for it to be in use every night of the week. On October 25th 2005, the City Council agreed to lease the building to Jon Fenske and Sinisa Novakovic, who will run the Varsity primarily as an art house cinema.



The 1992 remodeling rededication plaque Opening Night April 6th 2006

See Movie Theaters for other theaters in Davis and the surrounding area.


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2005-12-02 10:40:17   The Varsity is also rumored to be haunted, and i would not be surprised if it was —JulienBiewerElstob

2006-02-25 11:15:40   Yeah, there was a lot of unexplained stuff that happened when I worked there (music turning on when I was the only person in the theatre, footsteps, lights turning on/off). —KarleeFinch

Regarding ghosts...OK, I'm starting to take this stuff seriously. I keep telling myself it is an old building with lots of dark corners and air vents. But, I've heard some strange noises, mainly creaky footsteps from the projection room when the lights are turned off. —JonFenske

2006-03-08 22:07:21   have you seen the hole thats backstage? Its always blowng cold air out.. always. It is pretty creepy. —JulienBiewerElstob

2006-04-08 22:46:56   Went tonight to see a showing of Thank You for Smoking. Really neat place- I think they've done a great job with the renovation. The seats were super comfy, the concessions reasonably priced and of course, it's great to have a place in Davis to see good (quasi-independent) film. I'm happy to report that the place was packed. Hopefully it'll stick around. —StacieTownsend

2006-04-08 22:58:32   Great job getting this venue going again. Viva independant movies! —PeteCarpenter

2006-04-09 14:29:31   Are those benches that were outside gone for good? —RyanPrendiville

2006-04-09 22:56:14   The day this town opens a movie theatre that serves alcohol will be the day Davis might actually get a chill nightlife. Do it Varsity, do it. —JeffSpeckles

2006-04-17 16:48:17   What's the current capacity of the Varsity? Some really big things could happen here if people are willing to support it. —BrendanBoyle

2006-04-17 22:22:55   Capacity is around 350. Hopefully, we will be around long enough to try some "big" things. —JonFenske

2006-04-23 19:41:33   Are they just going to show Thank You For Smoking until they go out of business? —JoshFernandez

I hope not...

I for one am totally excited about the two new films coming to the Varsity Theater. Check out the trailers, and you will feel the same. —Andy Jones

2006-05-01 06:29:22   I really like The Varsity—it looks great, really nice people work there, etc. Its always good to have less mainstream movie choices! My only "complaint" is that the arms don't move in the theatres! [note: some do, entry updated — jw] The seats are very comfortable but the option to move the arms would be nice. I swear Davis movie theatres are anti-cuddling at the movies. Oh well. Having non-moving arms on the seats are probably better anyway—less shenanigans! =P ps. See TYFS before its gone! —KarlaFung

Hi Karla, Actually the new seats in the back (in the platform area) have arms that lift up and form love seats. I thought the back of the theatre is where most of the "cuddlers" would sit anyway :) —JonFenske

That's where I sat too! However, they didn't move. Maybe I should have tried harder? But I tend to break things when I do. =( But good to know for future reference! Plus I think its cool that you're actively on the Wiki to update personally. Good job! —KarlaFung

Yeah, I think you have to give the arm rests a good tug. I really dig the Wiki! It's fun to keep people up on what's going on. I hope I'm not percieved as a businesss promoter (at least too much). As a note, I didn't post the ticket prices, concession prices, or showtimes. —JonFenske

No worries — you're a business owner and an honest member of the Wiki community. Everybody wants to hear what you have to say. It's interesting which owners understand that being up front and honest makes you look great, versus the few who opened up fake accounts and tried to post fake good reviews or delete bad ones. Feel free to keep the ticket prices, showtimes and upcoming shows updated. It's useful information you have and can share, not "evil promoter" or off-topic spam. If there's anywhere on the net you can feel comfortable about posting updates and information, it's on this entry. —jw

2006-05-02 09:47:25   Jon, may I make a suggestion. Get an old fashioned pinball machine for the lobby of the theatre. —RobRoy

2006-05-03 21:49:43   Erin and I went to the 7PM showing of "Thank You For Smoking" tonight. The pricing was reasonable, the staff were friendly and capable, the seats were very comfy, and the screen & sound quality were good. Oh yeah, and the movie was good. :) I like that they sell Martinelli's sparkling apple juice at the concession stand. ($2.50 is a bit steep, but at least they had options besides soda.) Erin, the nutrition grad student, commented approvingly that the popcorn selection includes sizes appropriate to what a healthy person might eat. The absolute best thing, in my opinion, was that *the movie actually started when they said it'd start*, not 20 minutes later after you've been bombarded with commercials and condescending lectures about "piracy". So, Jon and Sinisa: please keep it up! I'm looking forward to feeding my mocha monster when the mini-cafe opens. —GrahamFreeman

2006-05-03 22:49:41   What I think would make this theatre great is if they switched the movies more frequently and played older films as well as new releases. Something similar to the Red Vic movie theatre in San Francisco would be amazing. Of course I don't know the logistics of operating a theatre so I don't know how feasible operating it that way would be. —EyadDarras

2006-05-03 23:56:31   Hi Rob, I love the pinball machine idea! But the only place we could put it is where the lobby will access the gelato/capuccino cafe next door (in a month or so).

Graham, thanks for appreciating promptness. It was a conscious decision Sinisa made. As for pre-movie ambience, we now have background music provided by Davis connected musicians, courtesy of Mike Leahy at KDVS.

2006-05-19 23:06:41   Hey Jon. My wife and I went to see "Art School Confidential" tonight. Great movie and great theater. It's a beautiful place. Best of luck with everything. Now, if you only could serve beer . . . —AdamSchneider

2006-05-21 12:54:36   I'd very much like to see An Inconvenient Truth (website) at the Varsity. —GrahamFreeman

2006-05-22 23:13:50   The idea of serving beer and wine one night a week has been discussed. Remember, we've only been open 7 weeks. —JonFenske

2006-05-23 08:56:00   "An Inconvenient Truth" has just been confirmed for later in June. —JonFenske

2006-05-24 14:15:28   I saw "Art School Confidential" at this theater and I must say that this theater has the nicest seats of any movie theater I've been to. —EyadDarras

2006-06-13 13:36:28   I miss the drinking fountain that used to be in the lobby between the bathrooms; it had the coldest water ever. Plus I wanted to add water to my cup after the small amount of soda (compared to the ice) had been drunk. Seats: the one I sat in (which used to be row K I think) was definitely not screwed in all the way, it needs a quick fix with a drill. —NoelBruening

2006-06-13 15:39:15   Noel, if you have any requests in future, don't be afraid to ask the staff! We would have been happy to top off your cup with cold water. Likewise, if you'd mentioned the seat to us we'd have fixed it immediately. —LiamCreighton

2006-06-13 16:52:37   Thanks Noel. I'll be sure to have the seats around row K looked at. Regarding the drinking fountain, I believe the city had it removed. As for ice in soft drinks, the staff is instructed to fill cups the standard amount with ice, but also to honor all requests for more/less/or no ice. —JonFenske

2006-06-21 06:21:26   There are ghosts in the Varsity? Cool. Must be my son, who was managing the building when he died suddenly in 1999. Nice to know he's still watching over the place. —BevSykes

2006-08-05 11:20:10   Went in to watch An Inconvenient Truth the other day. Cool spot, good ice cream. I was happy. Now do beer and wine! —JeffSpeckles

2006-08-29 16:09:20   Saw "Who Killed the Electric Car?". I was prepared for some kind of boring documentary and was pleasantly surprised. The film uses the case of Electric Car to provide a detailed examination of the politics of California's ground-breaking initiative in the 70s and 80s, to move to a future of Zero Emission Vehicles. The automakers and oil companies paid lip service to the notion of an emission-free future until it looked like it might actually happen. Then the long knives came out... Definitely worth seeing. Oh yeah, the theater is great! Comfy seats, nice people, tasty popcorn, great gelato and espresso. A Davis treasure!—HughToppe

2006-10-02 19:39:27   I saw Half-Nelson here recently. I was impressed by the theater. —MisterProfessor

2006-10-09 14:52:26   please book 'Mutual Appreciation' if its possible! —YooHyunOak

2006-10-11 09:21:31   Mutual Appreciation looks interesting and has gotten rave reviews. At this point it has only been in very limited release in NYC. We'll keep an eye on it. Thanks. —JonFenske

2006-10-22 03:33:00   what about The Devil and Daniel Johnston? —YooHyunOak

2006-10-22 12:53:00   I've enjoyed seeing several movies here (Thank You For Smoking, Inconvenient Truth, Strangers With Candy). The seats are comfy, staff is nice and price for admission and snacks is very reasonable (and the bathrooms are *clean*!!). I also love that a locally owned theatre is showing some of the smaller movies I would have to drive elsewhere to see. I do however have a few quibbles that I felt must be expressed and they have to do with picture and sound quality.

First the brightness of the projection is too dim for the size of room. I suspect the brightness has been turned down to extend bulb life (a common practice amongst many smaller theatres as bulbs are very expensive). At the corner edges of the screen it is very noticable and can be distracting at times. The other issue is the sound has a hollow echo in the theatre. Baffles can be installed to minimize this but admittedly it would affect the overall pleasantness of the architecture (and are obviously expensive).

I will however continue going to the Varsity but I just felt these issues must be said. I'm probably more nitpicky than most but I think the average theatre going person has had their expectations lessened by large chain theatres whose general lack of standards has worsened over time as few people voice their concerns to management. I just think that a good experience can be a great experience. —HollywoOd

  • I didn't notice a brightness problem last time I wend. Also, just so you know, dimming a bulb does not extend its life. Roger Ebert has commented on this practice multiple times. —CraigBrozinsky

2006-11-06 23:26:23   Why are you showing Little Miss Sunshine starting on the 10th? —RyanPrendiville

2006-11-07 15:13:47   Hi Hollywood, thanks for your comments. First off, we are definitely not dimming our bulbs, and we spent well over $100,000 on acoustics and related equipment. The sheer size of the room may lend itself to a different experience than the muliplexes though. Regarding projection, you are the first to mention this, but upon closer examination I did notice, when showing "flat" (vs scope) films, a very thin area at the borders that is not quite as bright. We are having our tech person fix this. It is an allignment/projection tune-up issue. Anyway, I appreciate you letting me kow your concerns. We definitely want the theatre to be the "best it can be". —JonFenske

2006-11-07 15:31:34   Hi Ryan, We are split-screening Sunshine with the John Lennon film. We initially booked Last King of Scotland for the weeks prior to the Christopher Guest film For Your Consideration (which is expected to be a big hit). But the studio decided to pull back the release of Last King to time it with the Oscar season buzz. We couldn't get any bigger films for such a small time space. —JonFenske

2006-11-08 20:50:42   Thanks for the response, I just thought Little Miss Sunshine was quite well played already. But I guess this is good news for the "indie" crowd (even if we seem to have different views of what "indie" means). However, I think it's quite possible for someone to go to Regal or any of the other large multiplexes and still "understand the movie business." Showing the same product as a large multiplex does nothing to alleviate the need for a truly "indie"/independent theater, but I acknowledge that your hands are probably tied by distributors. —RyanPrendiville

2006-12-21 17:03:40   Damn, I guess that means that the only way to show interstellia 2525 is by renting the whole place = Or maybe a film festival type thing. Eh, who cares. Can you ask Sinisa when I go on schedule? I haven't heard from him a couple days =( —StevenDaubert

"2007-01-05 14:02:42" This is THE BEST theater in Davis. Always amazing, fresh films that I wouldn't have had the chance to see in a mainstream theater. When I first arrived in Davis I was pleased to see a good showing of theaters, but was a little disappointed by the Regals. They're not bad, but they're not pristine movie-watching environments either. The Varsity, on the other hand, has a great atmosphere and pleasant employees who really seem to appreciate film. All of my experiences there have been spectacular. And I like that Jon uses the Wiki. —CaitlinMorrow

2007-01-13 09:46:22   I went to see the Dixie Chicks doc "Shut Up and Sing" at the Varsity last night with my little sister. She was visiting Davis, and being 16, is typically not impressed by anything. However, she LOVED the Varsity, and I felt like it was a great way to introduce her to Davis. —JillWeinstein

2007-05-12 10:27:47   "The Lives of Others," a film set in 1980s East Germany (before the wall was taken down), is playing at the Varsity for the next two weeks. I highly recommend it. I do not exaggerate when I say that it is one of the best films ever made. It won the an Oscar and a Golden Globe award for "Best Foreign Language Film;" it won "Best Actor," "Best Film," and "Best Screenwriter" at the European film awards; and many other awards. If you've never been to the Varsity, this is a good time to go. —CovertProfessor

2007-05-24 13:54:55   Do they use real butter on their popcorn? —Jedron

2007-06-25 15:47:55   I worked at the Varsity Theatres (I & II as well as Cinema 2) for Sam DeMasi around 1987-1990. It was a great group of people to work with! Sam was a character as well. I think he and John (the former projectionist) are the ones stomping around the Varsity today. Nice to know that Sam is still around. Around 1991/92, I was working for City of Davis to help clean up and renovate the theatre. That was when they tore down the wall that separated the I & II. Phil Sequera and I probably knocked years off our lives breathing the dust and asbestos cleaning that place out. We were the first to see and uncover the art deco paintings (1940's style agricultural depictions) that the city destroyed in their "renovations." I spoke with John Fenske about them as I was the one to take photographs of them before they were painted over. Unfortunately, I handed those negs over to Bob Bowen. Thankfully, John appears to have some of the prints and is working on having an artist recreate them. Rock on, John. I'm glad someone in this city is interested in preserving Davis' history. —DebWestergaard

2007-10-23 22:56:59   Will you be showing "Lars and the Real Girl" at The Varsity? I'd love to see it, but it's not showing at any theaters in the area. —KatieLeasure

  • You can contact the theater directly through their website or by phone and perhaps suggest it.

2007-10-24 13:51:15   My biggest complaint is that the Varsity doesn't book enough 'arthouse' films. Far too many of the films that they show are also showing in large multiplexes. As an example, the most recent two films (Into the Wild and Darjeeling Limited) had widespread distribution, and were easy to find. I wish the Varsity would show more films that I can't see elsewhere. This would be easier if they would book more than one film at a time. I understand that they only have one screen at the moment, but that wouldn't prevent them from showing two films in a week. I'd also love it if they could show some classic films, but that's a discussion for another time. —MattCzarnowski

2007-10-26 13:48:52   I think the Varsity does a good job with its selection of films. For people without a car in Davis, it's a pain to try and get to Sacramento to see a film like Into the Wild. The Varsity takes care of that problem, and serves the community well. :) —davistudent ——but I am wondering why this is the 3rd or 4th week they're playing Into the Wild and keep pushing back the Darjeeling Limited. COME ON!!!!!

  • From the varsity newsletter: "The Darjeeling Limited will almost certainly open on November 16."

2007-11-09 21:19:51   I echo the last comments, overall good selections, a little more artsy and rare wouldn't hurt - but I guess a second screen would definitely help with that. To the crux of my message: could you/ have you considered playing Bella?? Looks like a great movie with various awards under her belt. —AntoniaTsobanoudis

2007-11-11 00:22:09   I understand that cost and the current 1 screen are issues, but here are some suggestions for my idealized version of the theatre: a) What everyone has said: Would be lovely if varsity could screen more art/independent films at one time, both the oldies and the newer ones. Perhaps the oldies could be screened during the earlier portion of the week (I am assuming Thur-Sun generates the most profit)? b) Hopefully there are more midnight movie series to come. c) Would be great if special screenings could be held on/during holidays&other memorable dates. Example: Rocky Horror around Halloween, cult movies around their anniversaries...

Oh, and Tuesday special rate is excellent. —il

  • People don't come to art and independent films, and cult films have almost zero attendance. People talk about them quite a bit, and how cool it would be. When they are run, people talk about how great it is that they are running. The theater then fills with two or three people, sometimes even approaching a dozen. Or sometimes simply zero. The projectionist then breaks down the film and goes home. It is quite sad. — JabberWokky

* Are you referring to Davis in particular? This sure hasn't been the case in the other college towns I've lived in. In terms of Davis, I'm not sure that anyone really knows the current demand for independent and cult films in this town, since to my knowledge they haven't been run on a regular basis. Part of building an audience is regularity and reputation. If people know that indie cinema/event movies routinely occur at the Varsity, it would help increase public knowledge of them, and encourage attendance. It definitely might be be rough going at first, when the community isn't aware of what's going on and what the future plans are, but it could build over time. If it is true that showing some classic films and cult films wouldn't attract enough people in Davis (couldn't one schedule programming in conjunction with the film studies program?) that's really sad.—MattCzarnowski

  • " idealized version of the theatre."

    That said, I feel that the theatre could be better utilized given it had the means, whatever that might be without losing business. Of course, I don't know anything about running a theatre and I am sure the Varisty is trying to maximize its potential, but it seems to me that running the same movie over several weeks may not attract as many people as say, running two movies over several weeks (again, how that would run in practice, I do not know).

    For the special screenings idea: I agree that it would be suicidal for the theatre to run too many cult movies at this stage, but I have a feeling a couple well planned screenings throughout the year might work out—the screenings would need to generate enough interest& well publicized, perhaps through working with local businesses to create some type of "theme" (easiest example: the annual beat generation conference, although I think the theatre is already doing this). —il

2007-11-11 21:39:05   Thank you for the interesting discussion on this board! I'm sorry I've been away for a while. A couple of comments: 1. We don't have total power over our programming. If a film does well over a weekend, it is very difficult to take it off and move on to the next booked film without generating future difficulties with studios. "Into the Wild" (a very good film as a note) has far, far exceeded everyone's expectations. In fact this weekend, the box office has been up at many venues in Nor Cal - again against all expectations. So what can we do. We very much have planned and wanted to show "Darjeeling" for 2 weeks now. We will try our best to get it up on Friday Nov 16. As a note, the studio has distributed hundreds of free passes to see Into the Wild around town and UCD (we still get reimbursed for the admission). I understand there were quite a few at Mishkas Cafe on Sunday afternoon. 2. When we get the second screen up, this will prevent delays (like with Darjeeling) from happening in the future - at least with bigger films...and help alleviate A LOT of frustrations. 3. We try to program a wide variety of intelligent/creative there is something for everyone. The term "art film" can have different meanings to different people. If there is an audience for a film, it will be shown at many venues, including multiplexes. Generally if a film is critically acclaimed (even small tormented films like Half Nelson etc.) it will find an audience in NY/LA and eventually the smaller markets. 4. As for other programming (Midnight movies etc), I'll work on that next year. If nothing else, Id like to have a "Big Lebowski" weekend : ). We're playing "This is Spinal Tap" on Dec. 2 in conjunction with Watermelon Music. So the future is very bright. Stay tuned! (from a co-owner of the Varsity Theatre).


2007-11-14 16:45:08   Thanks for all the feedback, Jon. It's nice when owners get involved on the wiki. Thanks for playing Into the Wild and now the Darjeeling Limited :) Is there any chance of Lars and the Real Girl, or I'm Not There? —davistudent

2007-11-15 21:55:16   Lars and the Real Girl has been added to the "possible" list. As a note, this decision was totally a result of requests from email newsletter subscribers (and on the wiki)...another advantage of having a locally owned and operated theatre : ). We have to wait and see if there is break between the first-run films we hope to show. —JonFenske

2007-11-16 12:26:14   UPDATE We have procured the Wes Anderson 13-minute prequel to Darjeeling Limited - Hotel Chevalier. The short film stars Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman and has gotten great reviews. We got this after show times were due for submittal this week, so we won't have it up on screen until Friday November 23. —JonFenske

2007-11-25 18:04:16   I'd like to voice my displeasure at going to see Darjeeling Limited last Sunday before the Varsity added The Hotel Chevalier. However, The Varsity should have been more explicit that part of the film, The Hotel Chevalier, was missing (at the time, they have it now). No other person I know who has seen the film went to a theatre that did not play The Hotel Chevalier in the beginning, and also no other theatre presented it as a separate film, but played it as the first part of the movie. (update) I did a bit of further research on this, and it looks like theaters were playing the film w/o Hotel Chevalier, but that was in October, before a bunch of moviegoers became upset and the studio had the two films screened together again. If one goes to the Hotel Chevalier website, it states that it will be played with Darjeeling. I get the feeling that having to play Darjeeling without Chevalier was forced upon the Varsity by the studio, but still I'm not pleased that I, and all the folks in the theater that Sunday missed out on something we could have reasonably expected would have been included with the movie. —MarieBoisvert

2007-11-25 22:29:52   That's unfortunate to hear that some people didn't get to see the Hotel Chevalier short. However, Darjeeling is not playing with Hotel Chevalier anywhere in the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Hotel Chevalier is not even playing in LA. In fact, if I wanted to see the Hotel Chevalier short, I'd have travel back to Davis. That's a little far for me. —Jedron

2007-11-26 20:59:32   Marie (and all others who have seen Darjeeling Limited), Please be our guest to see Hotel Chevalier free of charge at any time. The movie will be playing through Dec. 5 (at least). Just go to the theatre at a published show time and tell the manager that you saw Darjeeling prior to us adding the short film. They are instructed to let you in to see Hotel Chevalier free of charge. We couldn't add it to the first week because our show times were already submitted and we didn't allow enough time between showings to include the short film (which arrived later). Thanks, Jon


2007-11-27 12:31:37   Hi Jon, thanks for you're continued participation in the Wiki! It's nice to know that some businesses like listening to their customers. I know that 'art/indie' means different things to different people. It's not that I think the Varsity has picked 'bad' films, just that they have had a tendency to run films that I could have gone to a mainstream theater to see. While I know you need to make the money to stay in business, I keep hoping that the Varsity will bring films to town that *aren't* playing at almost every multiplex, even if those other films only play certain days of the week.(can you snag Crispin Glover's new film/slide show?)I remember going to all kinds of unusual films as an undergrad, and I wish students here could have that same experience. Davis could really use a more interesting nightlife/culture scene, and I guess I'm looking at you to be part of it. No pressure or anything. ;) (btw, I'll gladly support your Big Lebowski Weekend. I volunteer to help staff the white russian counter.) —MattCzarnowski

2007-12-06 21:51:05   They are playing Lars and the Real Girl starting Friday Dec. 7. People asked for it and The Varsity got it! —Jedron

2008-02-03 22:25:13   Varsity should bring back Midnight Madness Movies! I loved the ones they played last year. —CindyBanh

2008-02-18 17:47:29   Hi Matt and other art film lovers, We booked Persepolis last week. It is a black & white animated film, largely in French with subtitles, about a young girl coming-of-age amidst the Iranian revolution. It is only playing at 2 screens in the Sac area. Jon


2008-03-29 19:04:13   It'd be nice if their website had a listing of stuff they previously played. Since I work across the street, I constantly get people coming to me after they've closed asking if I remember what played two weeks ago (usually cause they planned on seeing it, but didn't get a chance, but now can't remember the title). —SunjeetBaadkar

2008-07-04 19:37:05   Hi Jon! Are you going to play Trombo or the Hunter S Thompson movies? —jazzybatgirl

2008-07-31 16:31:39   Thank you for being here! It's wonderful to have a theater that brings substance to the cinema scene (not to mention foreign films)! —everdrw

2008-10-02 22:14:55   I went here for the first time last week to see Choke, and was really impressed with the experience. The theatre was big and even CLEAN! I'll definitely be making visiting the Varsity a more common experience. :) —VanessaZ

2008-11-07 18:00:46   They always have the cool film festivals when I'm working :( —SunjeetBaadkar

2009-03-11 11:40:18   Wow - I just found out Slumdog Millionaire will be playing for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, the coming attractions posted outside the theater have come & gone from OTHER theaters in the area. I always loved Varsity but have had to visit other theaters - even having to go to WOODLAND to see new movies - consistently for a couple of months now. Can Varsity really still be making $$ off this film? Even if so, is there any importance in serving the community here & making some of the other options available without going to a large multiplex or leaving town? —Dora5

2009-05-26 14:05:54   Sign a petition to save the orange trees from the Mishka's development: [WWW]

2009-08-05 12:55:10   Just saw "Away We Go;" the new digital projection system is great. Are you still planning to add a second screen? —KatieLeasure

2009-11-09 08:53:14   The landmark sign, ironically, makes Varsity's facade look less landmark-able; it juts into Varsity's overall aesthetic, gouging its continuity. The pole and placard has become an object of attention in itself, defeating its own function, namely, bringing attention to the theater. It's a good sentiment, mind you, but why couldn't they have put it off to the side and made it less conspicuous? —ZN

2009-12-22 11:10:15   An update, I (Jon Fenske) sold my half of the Varsity Theatre to co-owner Sinisa Novakovic. The sale was amicable and the future of the theatre is bright. As of mid-December, 2009, I gave up my responsibilities for programming. Good night and good luck Varsity Theatre. I wish you the best! —JonFenske

2010-02-19 17:00:52   what's the weird abandoned building next door? —WeiChun

2010-02-24 16:28:54   Haven't been to the Varsity in a while but get their newsletter- it seems they've quietly added the 2nd screen. How is it? I've been afraid of the effect it might have on the main auditorium, has that been changed in any way? Also anyone know if both screens are using digital projection and/or 35mm? —AlanSmithee

2010-03-07 02:02:19   Now showing Alice in Wonderland in 3D!!! —wam

2010-03-08 09:53:24   the varsity theater is fantastic!!!! great seating great food... employees are and owner fantastic!!!! —Kristi00

2010-05-17 21:10:06   I grew up with the Varsity and I particularly remember those haunting, sepia-toned murals— and how vast they were. I don't know who created the murals, but I am glad that they have at least been reproduced (the original murals contained asbestos so they couldn't be saved). How well I remember gazing in fascination at those rather melancholy and mysterious figures, trying to decide what their significance was. Funny the things that stick in your memory. I never heard anything about the Varsity's being haunted— can an old building be "haunted" if there have never been any (reported) deaths inside it?

And kudos to Dave Rosenberg for having the wisdom to suggest an alternative to razing the theater. It's a beautiful building and it definitely adds a nice touch to Davis' downtown— and it has for 60 years. —MaryJamison

2011-03-25 18:54:48   This theater sure doesn't like to promote what it has- the main auditorium has had a digital projection system for some time now- for a small operation that's pretty high-tech. With the kind of movies they show it would have been wise to have kept the 35mm system, but that's been moved down to the 'new' screen (it's the same projector that was at the long-gone Cinema 2 theater on E St, where Watermelon Music is now.)

I have mixed feelings about the added screen- the area it's in was the backstage area when this was a live theatre in the 90s and wasn't being used when they switched back to movies, so they had to do something with it. The intrusion on the main auditorium for this is a hallway that was sort of walled-off on the left side, so now the seats nearest the left wall have been displaced by a new wall sticking out- the surround speakers have been re-mounted on this wall, and above that is a notch with the hallway's ceiling and the remainder of the original wall. Still not nearly as awful as this theater was in the 70s and 80s, when it was cut into 2 by putting a wall straight down the middle.

The new screen is small but decent (I probably wouldn't want to pay full price to see a movie here.) It's common-width so the scope picture is small, but at least they don't insult you by raising the masking for the pre-show ads like they do at the Stadium 5. The sound appears to be Dolby Digital judging from the sound reader I saw through the window but don't quote me on that. They used DTS (also inherited from the Cinema 2) when this projector was in the main booth, which was unreliable since many films didn't ship with the required discs (a problem this format has had since its inception), and smaller films only used Dolby Digital anyways. —AlanSmithee

2011-08-04 17:06:46   I remember midnight showings of Rocky Horror back in the late 80's, it was awesome... people coming in costume, acting (speaking, singing) with the movie... and someone hit me with a piece of balled up toast that was so damn hard, I had a lump on my head for days. All great memories (except the toast, or rock, or whatever the heck it was)... that movie should have never come out on video (cue old person grumbling). —OldDavis73