Fox Oakland Theater
1807 Telegraph Avenue,
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The auditorium of the Fox Theatre has a colorful East Indian Buddhist temple gloss applied over a standard squared off Weeks & Day interior. The entry portion of the main facade takes the form of a polychrome mosaic-like shrine, with smaller lantern-topped towers on either side. Trim with a Near Eastern flavor forms the cornice line for the remainder of the building.
Opened by West Coast Theatres on October 27, 1928 with the movie “The Air Circus” and stage entertainment, this theatre became the Fox Theatre in 1929 after West Coast Theatres was purchased by William Fox. The theatre was said to have the largest seating capacity on the Pacific Coast, of between 3,200 and 3,800 seats. Stars appearing live on stage over the years included Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and the Jimmy Dorsey Band.
The Fox Theatre closed in 1965, but opened sometimes for exclusive runs such as “Planet of the Apes”. The Fox’s long history of exclusive first run films concluded in 1968, with “Rosemary’s Baby”. From 1969 until 1973, the Fox Theatre played porn movies and second run films. The City of Oakland had a plan to demolish it to create a parking lot. Other events continued until the movie palace closed in 1984.
In 1996, the City of Oakland purchased the theatre for $3 million.
Wagner Electric Sign Company of Ohio meticulously restored the marquee and vertical signs in the Fall 2001, before reuse plans were determined for the interior.
A $68 million restoration project enables the Fox Theatre to be used for a variety of events. An extensive restoration by the architectural firm ELS Architects has included travel to Morocco to find replacement light fixtures. An innovative seating design, movable and on platforms, will make the facility an intimate space or 3,000 seats, depending on production requirements. Chairs were fabricated to match the original theatre seating. It took almost a year to repaint the theatre’s ornate nine-color plaster ceiling as it had to be re-anchored and repainted with faux wood grain and metallic notes. With new construction added, the building will also be a home to the Oakland School of the Arts and to a sixth to twelfth grade public charter school.
Operated by Another Planet Entertainments, the Fox Theater reopened on February 5, 2009. Together with the nearby Paramount Theatre, and Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland is now a ‘must visit’ destination for any movie palace enthusiast.
The Fox Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 2, 1979.
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