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A truly magnificent example of Art Deco style beauty and construction, Oakland’s 3,476 seat Paramount Theatre is a marvelous counterpart to Radio City Music Hall, NYC in gilded glory. The Paramount Theatre was opened December 16, 1931 with Kay Francis in “The False Madonna”, a “Fox Movietone” newsreel, a Silly Symphony cartoon “The Spider and the Fly” and on the stage a 45-minute Fanchon & Marco revue “Slavique Idea”. Attending the opening were film-stars George Bancroft, Elissa Landi, John Boles, Francis Dee and John Breedon. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 4 manual 20 ranks theatre organ. After operating for six months with a movie & stage show policy, it was closed for a year, reopening in May 1933, managed by Frank Burhans who had come from the Warfield Theatre, San Francisco. It was now purely a movie house. It was briefly taken over by the Nasser Bros. Theaters circuit, followed by Fox West Coast Theatres.
In 1953 it was equipped with CinemaScope to screen “The Robe” starring Richard Burton. The Wurlitzer organ had been little used after 1932, and was removed from the theatre in the late-1950’s. The Paramount Theatre was closed by National General Theatres on September 15, 1970 with The Beatles in “Let It Be”. It was then used for occasional movies. At the end of 1971 it was used as a location shoot for the movie “The Candidate”. In October 1972, it was purchased as a new home for the Oakland Symphony Orchestra. The final movie to play the Paramount Theatre was a matinee performance on December 19, 1972 of “Joy in the Morning” starring Richard Chamberlain.
The following day work began on a full restoration of the theatre. It reopened September 22, 1973 with a reduced seating capacity of 2,998. On October 1, 1975, the Paramount Theatre was gifted by the Oakland Symphony Orchestra to the city of Oakland for $1.00. In 1974 a Wurlitzer organ was installed, the 4 manual 27 ranks instrument have originally been installed in the Capitol Theatre, Detroit, MI. The organ made its debut in November 1981. On October 1, 1975, the Paramount Theatre was gifted by the Oakland Symphony Orchestra to the City of Oakland for $1.00.
Unlike the San Francisco Fox Theatre, this classic is still very much alive in the Bay area.
The Paramount Theatre was designated a Netional Historic Landmark in 1977.
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