Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The Paramount Theater
The Paramount Theater is located at 2025 Broadway in downtown Oakland. It's on the National Registry of Historic Places, it is California Historical Site number 884, and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The historic monument plaques are located around the corner from the main entrance.
The Paramount Theater was built in 1931 and, at the time of its construction, was the largest movie palace on the West Coast with a seating capacity of 3,476. The theater was designed by architect Timothy F. Pflueger, who also designed the Castro Theater in San Francisco, and is a stellar example of Art Deco architecture and style. The theater's main exterior sign is visible up and down Broadway and is notable for its 110-foot high mosaic. The interior of the theater is overwhelming in its opulence, with rare and valuable materials used everywhere.
The Paramount has had to close its door several times in its history, the first time coming just two years after it opened, in 1933. The era of the movie palace, and the Golden Age of Hollywood, was drawing to a close and the theater owners were unable to cover the costs of operation. After staying closed for nearly a year the theater would reopen without an orchestra or a variety show and focusing almost entirely on showing new movies. The theater closed again in 1970 when it became unable to compete against smaller, more affordable movie theaters located in the suburbs. The theater was purchased in 1972 by the Oakland Symphony Orchestra, but this would only last for two years before the symphony went bankrupt and was forced to sell the theater. The Oakland Symphony Orchestra offered the theater to the City of Oakland for the price of $1, with the only stipulation being that they would have guaranteed bookings at the Paramount for the next forty years. A group of citizens approached the city about the possibility of managing the theater as a city-owned non-profit and this management structure has remained to this day.
The theater is great, a monument to an era and a style from the past. If you're riding up Broadway and happen to be passing the theater, stop for closer look at the mosaic and entrance. If you're lucky enough to a show there, the interior of the theater is stunning. This is on the short list of historic sites that I've seen recently that I feel truly deserve their place on the NRHP and their status as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Unlike so many other sites in the Bay Area that have been re-purposed, moved, or destroyed, the Paramount remains in its original location and looks as amazing in person as in the historic photos from the day of its opening.
Getting There By Bike...
The Paramount is smack in the middle of downtown Oakland, on the corner of Broadway and 25th. Just be careful about the cars running up and down Broadway and you should be fine. There's a lot of other historical sites in the surrounding neighborhood. Preservation Park is a few blocks off to the side, the Cathedral Building is nearby at the corner of 15th and Broadway, and Lake Merritt is just down the street. Chinatown, the Tribune Tower, and the original site of the College of California are also within easy biking distance.