INFO Built in 1931, The Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland, CA is a towering testament to Art Deco movie houses and the opulence of old Hollywood. When it opened, it was the West Coast’s biggest multi-purpose theater – featuring... ... read more
Oakland, CA 94612
Built in 1931, The Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland, CA is a towering testament to Art Deco movie houses and the opulence of old Hollywood.
When it opened, it was the West Coast’s biggest multi-purpose theater – featuring seating for an astounding 3,476 people. The exterior features 110-foot tile mosaics, while the interior boasts a 58-foot high lobby with glowing grillwork, and vertical bands alternating between green artificially lighted panels and lusty red piers. The auditorium is perhaps the most aesthetically arresting space, with its golden walls with sculpted depictions of mythological motifs and glinting galaxies.
In 1932 the Paramount was crumbling due to weekly operating costs of around $27,000. Unable to keep up with the payments, the Paramount had no choice but to close down. The Paramount reopened about a year later under the management of Frank Burhans, who tried to cut costs by operating without a stage show or an orchestra, and by unscrewing a lot of light bulbs.
Closed again in 1970, the space saw a glimmer of hope when the Oakland Symphony Orchestra purchased it in 1972 for $1 million; but just two years later the Symphony went bankrupt and sold the The Paramount to the city for just $1.
The story goes that seven members of the community banded together, approached city officials, and suggested operating the theater as a nonprofit organization. The city agreed and the Paramount has been able to remain under these conditions.
These days events at the Paramount Theatre include lecture series, stand-up comedy, re-runs of classic films, and an eclectic offering of music including gospel, jazz, rock, classical, and pop. It also serves as the home for both the Oakland Ballet and the Oakland East Bay Symphony.