Fox Oakland Theatre

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Fox Oakland Theatre
Fox Oakland Theatre.jpg
Fox Oakland Theatre 2002
Location 1807 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, California, USA
Coordinates 37°48′28″N 122°16′12″W / 37.8079°N 122.27013°W / 37.8079; -122.27013
Owner City of Oakland
Operator Another Planet Entertainment
Type Indoor theatre
Seating type Orchestra, Balcony
Capacity 2,800
Opened 1928
Renovated February 5, 2009
Closed 1973

Fox-Oakland Theatre
Fox Oakland Theatre is located in California
Fox Oakland Theatre
Location 1807–29 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, California
Coordinates 37°48′32″N 122°16′9″W / 37.80889°N 122.26917°W / 37.80889; -122.26917Coordinates: 37°48′32″N 122°16′9″W / 37.80889°N 122.26917°W / 37.80889; -122.26917
Built 1928
Architectural style Art Deco
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 79000468[1]
Added to NRHP February 2, 1979

The Fox Oakland Theatre is a 2,800-seat concert hall, a former movie theater, located at 1819 Telegraph Avenue in downtown Oakland, California. It originally opened in 1928, running films until 1970. Designed by Weeks and Day, the theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was refurbished in the 2000s and reopened as a concert venue on February 5, 2009.


Originally intended to be named "The Bagdad" because of its Middle Eastern influenced architecture, the theater instead displayed the name "The Oakland" on the marquee, with the word "Oakland" forming the main portion of the vertical blade sign above the marquee. It was also known as the "West Coast Oakland".[2] The Oakland became the 251st theater to open in the West Coast Theater chain.[3] Opening day was October 27, 1928, after two years of construction.[4] The opening celebration was highly anticipated by the Bay Area residents, as the theater's 3,200 seats made it the largest in Oakland, more than the nearby Orpheum which held 2,561, and more than the new 1075-seat Dufwin which had opened three weeks earlier. The first film shown at the Oakland was Fox's The Air Circus, an early sound film. Stage spectacles were also performed between films, and newsreels were shown. Music was provided by the Hermie King band with 20 members, and by an organist playing the house organ, a Wurlitzer Opus 1960 with 3 manuals and 15 ranks of pipes. A staff of 150 was required to run the theater.[2][5]

In March 1929, the theater was renamed the "Fox Oakland" when William Fox bought the West Coast Theatres chain and merged it with his Fox Theatres chain. The launch of the Fox was expected to earn high earnings in the downtown district. Reestablishing the movie industry, the Fox offered the opportunity to stray from the silent films and helped introduce the “talkies” by having a live stage show.[6]

Attendance significantly dropped in the 1960s.[4] The theater was in decline on account of the rise of television and smaller multiplex theaters. It stopped showing first-run movies in 1962, dabbled briefly in softcore porn films, and closed in 1970, after showing its final film, Let It Be with The Beatles.

During the years of closure,there were many plans for the theater to be restored; other possibilities included converting the Fox to a mall.[7] It suffered an arson fire in 1973 but was not heavily damaged. The city considered tearing it down in 1975 to make room for a parking lot. The theater was spared when it was made an Oakland City Landmark in 1978. The following year it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1996, the City of Oakland bought the building for $3 million. Some badly needed restoration work began in 1999. By late 2001, the marquee and blade sign had been restored. In December 2004, the Oakland Redevelopment Agency received a $2.9 million grant for further restoration of the theater. Plans were made for Oakland School for the Arts to move into the theater and construction began in September 2006. After a three-year wait, the school finally moved into the theater in 2009. Bank of America provided the financing for the rehabilitation.


With terra cotta, rich colors, intricate gold accents, and distinctive dome, the theater’s design redefined architecture in that era. The interior of the Fox Theatre was delicately crafted and said to be described as “mystical”.[6] With its intriguing resemblance of an Indian temple, the Fox Theatre was a fascinating attribute to downtown Oakland. At this time, theaters across the nation strived to be more than just a typical building. The designs of various theaters were inspired greatly by Middle Eastern and Indian architecture.[6]

Restoration project[edit]

The Oakland Redevelopment Agency purchased the Fox Theatre in 1996 in an effort to preserve the historic landmark. The theater remained vacant with only maintenance being performed and no plans for its reuse until 2001. At that time an Oakland A's ballpark was considered for the area adjacent to the Fox Theatre and preliminary plans were evaluated for incorporation of the theater into the ballpark complex. When these plans fell through the theater continued to be vacant and suffer vandalism and another serious fire. When mayor Jerry Brown needed to find a new home for the Oakland School For the Arts, a charter high school dedicated to the arts, the task fell to the Redevelopment Staff. Community Redevelopment Director Daniel Vanderpriem originally conceived of the idea of placing the school in the retail and office space that surrounded, and was part of, the Fox Theatre structure. Restoring and reopening the theater in a shared use plan with the school was quickly championed by local developer Phil Tagami. The unpreserved theater suffered many tragedies during its forty year abandoned period. Deteriorated by several arson fires, disastrous vandalism, and decay, restoring the once prestigious Fox Theatre was not an easy task.[8] The historical landmark suffered great damages, but it was evident that many locals supported the idea of renovating an important element of Oakland’s culture. In addition, “Friends of the Oakland Fox” was created by supporting community members.[7] Friends of the Oakland Fox, also known as FOOF, played a role with the Oakland Redevelopment Agency in raising funding for the elaborate $75 million restoration process. The President of FOOF, Phil Tagami was a major contributor to the restoration of the Fox and contracted with the Oakland Redevelopment Agency to lead the finance and construction team. During the refinement of plans Mr. Tagami was instrumental in shaping the school for the arts space and the theater reuse concept. Due to creative financing efforts only about 35% of the cost of the theater restoration and high school construction came from the City of Oakland Redevelopment Agency, and was used to leverage the majority of financing which came from outside public and private sources such as the syndication of tax credits. As the elaborate process began, there was a lot of speculation regarding the future success of the stagnant theater and its impact on the Paramount Theatre, also owned by the Redevelopment Agency and located just blocks away. However, the Redevelopment Agency, Mr. Tagami, FOOF, and local supporters formulated unique operational plans for the renovated Fox Theatre. Today the Fox Theatre operates a specialized commercial entertainment venue that plays a key role in the revitalization of downtown Oakland and provides a high profile location for the highly successful Oakland School for the Arts which is integrated into the Fox Theatre building and shares the theater stage space for its own productions and events.

A new beginning[edit]

February 2009 marked the beginning of a new era for the Fox. After being neglected for forty years, the once glamorous theater made its comeback as a 2,800-seat concert hall.[3] Accentuating its revival, the theater’s grand opening night featured a “roaring twenties” theme celebrating the newly renovated theater.[9] Many attended the imminent premiere that celebrated the city’s prized possession. The reopening of the Fox embodied a whole new dimension of the Fox Theatre. The newly renovated theater now offered more to the public. From a wide variety of spectacles, the grand opening night attracted a large crowd of intrigued guests.[10] The Oakland Fox Theatre now serves as a school, restaurant, and prominent live concert venue. It has hosted many concerts by various recognizable artists such as Prince, My Chemical Romance, Beirut, Air, Bob Dylan, Green Day, Wolfmother, Ween, Alice in Chains, Mastodon (band), Kylie Minogue, Animal Collective & The Decemberists since its opening.[11]

New features[edit]

The Oakland Fox Theatre is now home of the Oakland School for the Arts, a charter school founded in 2002 which enrolls 670 students from 6-12th grade specializing in the arts.[12] Oakland School for the Arts (also known as OSA) waited three years to occupy the renowned facility and now is well established in classrooms and offices built into the Fox Theatre building. The Bank of America provided the necessary funding for the school to obtain the space. Another great distinguishable feature is the newly constructed restaurant called The Den.[13] The new restaurant features a great variety of food and a bar that can be found alongside The Den. With the new features, the Oakland Fox Theatre targets a wide range of audience from kids to adults.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Theater History". Friends of the Oakland Fox. 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Fox Oakland Theatre Restoration Project. 2007. Oct. 2009 <>.
  4. ^ a b Bagwell, Beth. Oakland: The Story of a City. Oakland Heritage Alliance, 1996.
  5. ^ Tillmany, Jack (2006). Theatres of Oakland. Arcadia. p. 53. ISBN 9781439634059. 
  6. ^ a b c The Fox Oakland. 2009. Another Planet. Oct. 2009 <>
  7. ^ a b Friends of the Oakland Fox. 2004-2009. Oct. 2009 <>
  8. ^ Fox Oakland Theatre Restoration Project. 2007. Oct. 2009 <>
  9. ^ 7
  10. ^ "Oakland's Historic Fox Theatre Reopens." CBS Channel 5. 5 Feb. 2009. Oct. 2009
  11. ^ "Kylie Minogue preps for first ever North American tour." Live Daily. 6 May 2009. Oct. 2009
  12. ^ 5
  13. ^ 6


  • Bagwell, Beth. Oakland: The Story of a City. Oakland Heritage Alliance, 1996.
  • Fox Oakland Theatre Restoration Project. 2007. Oct. 2009
  • Friends of the Oakland Fox. 2004-2009. Oct. 2009
  • "Kylie Minogue preps for first ever North American tour." Live Daily. 6 May 2009. Oct. 2009
  • Oakland School for the Arts. 2009. Oct. 2009 website.
  • The Fox Oakland. 2009. Another Planet. Oct. 2009 Fox
  • "Oakland's Historic Fox Theatre Reopens." CBS Channel 5, 5 Feb. 2009; Oct. 2009.

External links[edit]