Fox Oakland Theatre
Fox Oakland Theatre 2002
|Location||1807 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, California, USA
|Owner||City of Oakland|
|Operator||Another Planet Entertainment|
|Seating type||Orchestra, Balcony|
|Renovated||February 5, 2009|
|Location||1807–29 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, California|
|Architectural style||Art Deco|
|NRHP Reference #||79000468|
|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". The Oakland became the 251st theater to open in the West Coast Theater chain. Opening day was October 27, 1928, after two years of construction. 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.
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.
Years of Closure
Attendance significantly dropped in the 1960s and on September 14, 1965 the Fox closed, "temporarily," according to the San Francisco Chronicle, "The movie ... which will be shown on the Fox Oakland's last day is the Marlon Brando spy melodrama, Morituri". During the next seven years the theater opened sporadically for movies and special events, but never found a market that could support the required overhead and maintenance.
In 1971 Huey Newton and several members of the Black Panther Party attended screenings of Melvin Van Peebles's film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song over a three day period using a side entrance for free admittance to Party members. In 1973 the theater building was twice the victim of arson after the owner refused to hire a quota of Black Panthers and pay for their "protection". In 1977 the theater was used during the filming of the horror film Nightmare in Blood directed by John Stanley. In 1983 and 1984 the Dickens Fair used the theater for Victorian England reenactments, setting up a mock village.
By 1975 the building was in such disrepair that the City's Public Works Department presented a plan for the City to purchase the property, demolish the building, and create a parking lot. However, their plans floundered and on Jan. 24 1978 the Mann Theater Group sold the theater at auction to Mario and Erma DeLucchi for $340,000. A few months after the purchase, Mr. DeLucchi died of a heart attack and plans for a restoration of the theater never took off. With the support of Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson the building was designated an Oakland City Landmark in 1978 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the following year.
In 1996, the Oakland Redevelopment Agency bought the building for $3 million. In 1999 the Oakland Heritage Alliance formed the Friends of The Oakland Fox and some badly needed restoration work began. In December 2004, the Oakland Redevelopment Agency received a $2.9 million grant for further restoration of the theater.
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. Friends of the Oakland Fox 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. 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.
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. Accentuating its revival, the theater’s grand opening night featured a “roaring twenties” theme celebrating the newly renovated theater. The Oakland Fox Theatre now serves as a school, restaurant, and prominent live concert venue. It has hosted many concerts by artists such as B.B. King, Paul Simon, The Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Green Day, Ween, Alice in Chains, Atoms For Peace, Black Star, Animal Collective, X Japan & The Decemberists since 2009.
The Oakland Fox Theatre is the home of the Oakland School for the Arts, a charter school founded in 2002 which enrolls students from 6-12th grade specializing in the arts. In 2011 Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe opened their second location in the building, it is co-owned by Green Day's Mike Dirnt.
With terra cotta, rich colors, intricate gold accents, and distinctive dome, the theater’s design redefined architecture in the 1920's. The interior of the Fox Theatre was delicately crafted and said to be described as “mystical”. 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.
- Fox Theatre for Fox Theatres in other U.S. cities
- Grand Lake Theatre
- Movie palace
- Paramount Theatre (Oakland, California)
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- "Theater History". Friends of the Oakland Fox. 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- Fox Oakland Theatre Restoration Project. 2007. Oct. 2009 <http://www.oaklandfox.com/>.
- Bagwell, Beth. Oakland: The Story of a City. Oakland Heritage Alliance, 1996.
- Tillmany, Jack (2006). Theatres of Oakland. Arcadia. p. 53. ISBN 9781439634059.
- The Fox Oakland. 2009. Another Planet. Oct. 2009 <http://thefoxoakland.com/index.php>
- Bagwell, Beth. Oakland: The Story of a City. Oakland Heritage Alliance, 1996.
- Fox Oakland Theatre Restoration Project. 2007. Oct. 2009 http://www.oaklandfox.com.
- Friends of the Oakland Fox. 2004-2009. Oct. 2009 http://www.foxoakland.org.
- "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.com.
- "Oakland's Historic Fox Theatre Reopens." CBS Channel 5, 5 Feb. 2009; Oct. 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fox Theatre (Oakland, California).|
- The Oakland Fox Theatre website
- Friends of the Oakland Fox website
- Oakland Fox Theatre at Cinema Treasures
- Fox Oakland Theatre Restoration Project