Paramount Theatre

2025 Broadway,
Oakland, CA 94612

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Paramount Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

A truly magnificent example of Art Deco style beauty and construction, Oakland’s 3,200 seat Paramount Theatre is a marvelous counterpart to Radio City Music Hall, NYC in gilded glory.

Unlike the San Francisco Fox Theatre, this classic is still very much alive in the Bay area.

Recent comments (view all 67 comments)

fkrock on April 15, 2011 at 5:09 am

The acoustical consulting firm for both Davies Symphony Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York was Bolt, Beranek, and Newman. At that time accoustical science for concert halls was very immature. Exactly why some halls had good acoustics and others were lousy was not known. Concert hall acoustics was a matter of luck. No art of acoustic design existed to be lost. Fortunately baroque decoration in 19th Century theaters often led to good acoustics but no one knew why. BB&N had made a number of studies of different concert halls to determine why some had good acoustics and others did not. BB&N probably knew more about concert hall acccoustics at that time than any other firm in the world. BB&N applied what they had learned to the design of Davies and Avery Fisher hall. Unfortunately the architects vetoed some BB&N design features with both concert halls and also made them larger than original plans. Both halls required remodeling to improve original acoustics.

In the case of San Francisco Fox and Oakland Paramount you could stand on the stage and clap your hands. The sound of the individual hand claps would echo back from the rear of the auditorium. You could stand near the side wall of the auditorium and clap once. Standing waves would cause that hand clap sound to riccochet back and forth between the two side walls. As I remember you could count six echos from one hand clap in the Paramount before the sound faded out. All these echos caused a muddy sound quality in the auditorium. They caused major problems in microphone placement to minimize them when recording or broadcasting from these auditoriums.

These sorts of problems were very common in theaters built in the 20th Century. The worst I ever heard were in the Berkeley Community Theater completed in 1950. When an orchetra was playing in the pit, microphones had to be put in the pit with loudspeakers on stage to prevent dancers from dancing to the beat of the echo reflected off the back wall of the theater.

trainmaster on April 15, 2011 at 7:38 am

Very interesting information – so you are saying the architects could override the acoustical engineers' designs? I would think the former would know more about that subject, but would explain the poor sound and redesigning. I am interested in acoustics, and it seems like a lost art because everyone depends on high powered amplification these days.

Theaters had to have powerful sounding walls because the power then was less than 25 watts – “The Voice Of The Theater” speaker system was so efficient, a hand-held scnner could drive those horn speakers, and the theater walls amplified the sound for the auditorium, which would echo to allow the sound waves to reach the patrons in the rear. Today, the method is different.


calcynic on April 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm

This is simply a treasure and must be sampled. If you live in the BayArea and haven’t been there…..whaddya waitin fer????

trainmaster on April 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I take it you are referring to the Paramount Theater tours.

For ONLY $3.00, on the first and third Saturdays, you get an cmplete tour of the Paramount. It lasts about two hours and you are shown
the entire theater. What a bargain!!!!!!

For $17.00 (according to the 2011 edition of the AAA New York tour guide book), you get a one-hour tour of the Radio City Music Hall.
That place is easily twice the size of the Paramount, and 1-hour hardly covers the place.

You won’t regret taking a tour of the Paramount. More than likely, you will want to take it again and again.


owlhen on October 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm

The tour of the paramount is well worth the $3. It’s nice to go there for a show (movies or live performance), but the in-depth information and time you get to spend with the theater on the tour is a real treat. The groups are small and you get to take your time appreciating all the details without having to navigate a crowd or hustle to your seat. The lounge areas adjacent to some of the rest-rooms are just as much of a treat as the auditorium. Going to the Paramount for any reason is like stepping into a time machine – highly recommended, and if you’re in the area you have no excuse NOT to see it.

Mikeyisirish on June 27, 2012 at 3:58 pm

A few 2011 photos can be seen here, here and here.

JeffryBluRay on April 5, 2013 at 5:31 am

I attended one of the showings of Abel Gance’s NAPOLEON in April of 2012 and was just blown away at how gorgeous the theater was and the quality of the projection work. Just a gorgeous theater and I am so glad I had the chance to see it in all its glory.

pbignardi on July 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm

For many years the Paramount ran a classic movie series, and going to see a classic movie in this theater was like a step back in time to a wonderful and long lost era. Classics I saw here included Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, North by Northwest, Jason and Argonauts, and Giant. The mighty Wurlitzer played and it was an amazing experience. Much of downtown Oakland is heavy with Art Deco designed buildings, but this is the best. It is good that the downtown may finally be getting an infusion of money and interest to restore it to its past glory.

ERD on July 3, 2016 at 5:56 pm

Good to know this theatre is being well maintained.

terrywade on August 1, 2016 at 7:13 am

I worked at the Fox Paramount in the mid 60’s. The manager was Robert Apple, a great showman. This is were I saw my first CinemaScope┬« film in the early 50’s. They had many true studio sneak previews. I worked the time they showed the sneak preview of ‘Mollie Brow’ in 4 track mag stereo. When the movie was released at the Paramount later on they only sent a mono print. MR Apple was very upset I remember ‘Mollie’ had some great surround sound effects and the Paramount had plenty of surround speakers in the balcony also. So nice It’s still open and they do show movies once in a while.

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