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Paramount Theatre

Photo from the Darren Snow collection.
2025 Broadway
Oakland CA
(510) 465-6400

Visit Website Live Theatre National Register 1973
Record #9859  
 Opened: December 16, 1931
Capacity: 2998 seats
Architect(s): Miller & Pflueger
Architectural Style(s): Art Deco
National Register: 1973
Current Organ: 4/27 Wurlitzer
 Also Known As:
 Previously operated by: Fox West Coast Theatres

The Paramount Theatre opened on December 16, 1931, after breaking ground on December 11, 1930. Kay Francis and other cast members of the opening film, "The False Madonna," were in attendance for the grand opening. The original cost of the Paramount was approximately $3 million and was designed by Timothy L. Pflueger (1892-1946).

Construction of the Paramount was initiated by Publix Theatres, the exhibition arm of Paramount Pictures. Financial difficulties forced the sale of the uncompleted building to Fox-West Coast Theatres, who completed and operated it.

Six months after its opening, the Fox-West Coast chain encountered difficulties arising from the anti-trust laws and most Fox interests were taken over by Spyros Skouras and Joseph Schenck. The Paramount operated successfully until the 1960s, when attendance dimished and the theatre closed during subway construction in 1967. At the start of the new decade, the theatre was operating just often enough to retain its franchise -- one day per month -- and by 1972, owner National General Corp. was seeking a buyer. The last paid-attendance movie shown was on Sept. 15, 1970, the Beatles film Let It Be.

After a test performance to demonstrate the theatre's excellent acoustics, the Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association purchased the Paramount for $1 million. The Association began a $1 million restoration effort, employing the San Francisco architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in consultation with Milton T. Pflueger, brother of the original architect.

No significant structural changes have been made to the building. The original rectangular marquee was replaced with a triangular marquee at some point. During the 1973 restoration, wider seating was installed and spacing for wheelchairs was added, reducing the number of seats to 1714 orchestra and 1284 balcony seats, 436 fewer than originally installed. The air conditioning system was also modernized, and bars were installed on both orchestra and mezzanine levels, and a box office was added to the 21st Street entrance. Before the theatre closed in 1970, the original Wurlitzer organ was removed to Ken's Melody Inn in Los Altos.

The Paramount was entered in the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 1973, and reopened on September 22, 1973.

The Oakland City Council voted unanimously on August 26, 1975, to accept ownership of the theatre. Under the agreement, the Oakland Symphony Orchestra was allowed priority for 98 dates annually (including performances and rehearsals), rent-free for 40 years.

On May 5, 1977, the theatre was declared a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.

 Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

June 2017 photos from the Scott Neff collection.

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December 2013 photos from the Scott Neff collection.

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January 2013 photos from the Scott Neff collection.

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August 2002 photos from the Adam Martin collection.

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Photos from the Scott Neff collection.

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Last featured 10/9/2003. Last edited 9/4/2018.

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