Fox Oakland Theater

1807 Telegraph Avenue,
Oakland, CA 94612

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Street-scape, night

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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.

Contributed by William Gabel, "BHousos", Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 103 comments)

celaniasdawn on February 18, 2011 at 4:20 am

Went there a few times, all the movies I saw there were widescreen except one time we went in to see The Little Shop of Horrors. The screen didn’t have a black border around the movie, but a projected border that looked like gold squares of the statues on the sides of the stage. Those statues were beautiful, how during the movie they would periodically spew smoke from the bowls and the back would flash green like a little explosion. I would love to see the inside again oneday, if only something decent was there. Terry and Simon were right, they should also show films and have performances for us seniors.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith on February 22, 2011 at 7:47 pm

This photograph of the Fox Oakland Theatre was taken in 1930 by George Mann of the comedy dance team, Barto and Mann.

TLSLOEWS on March 3, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Another great Barto and Mann photo,thanks for posting Brad.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith on March 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Thank you for your good words, Terry. Folks who live in the Bay Area may be interested in a Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association tour of the Fox Theatre on Friday, June 3rd. You can learn more about the tour by clicking here.

celaniasdawn on March 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Friday was my 70th birthday, and I wanted to see the Fox. My kids took me there. I haven’t been inside the Fox Oakland for 50 years. amd it was just absolutely stunning inside. There were a lot of things missing, like the chandeliers in the ceiling and a mural of the bay bridge, treasure island and the bay when you first walked in. The staff and security was incredible, they were everywhere, and very friendly. The music was very good, a band called OMD, but the acoustics in the theater were terrible. The sounds bounced off the walls like echoing thuds, and it gave me a headache (age I guess), so I went to the mezzanine to relax for a bit. I was sitting there for less than 10 minutes and two different times, staff asked to see my ticket. The security was checking everyones tickets to make sure they were in the section they were supposed to be in. After being asked twice to see my ticket, I got irritated, and they didn’t ask me anymore. I don’t see how these kids can afford the high priced drinks in there, My son got a screwdriver and it was over vodka’d. It was so good to be in there again, it brought back a lot of memories. The audience was good mannered and everyone was having a great time. The staff and security were just wonderful, just pesty and doing their job. I asked if they could get the statues to spew smoke again someday, they didn’t know that it the statues did that. Aside from the terrible sound system, it is just beautiful inside. I sure miss Capwells, Milens Jewelers, and the Newberry’s. But the area sure looks nice and its bustling again.

TLSLOEWS on March 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Thats for the update on the Fox balconyclosed, and hope you had a nice Birthday.

Mikeyisirish on June 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm

A 2010 photo can be seen here.

HenrySchmidt on July 14, 2012 at 1:49 am

More photos here:

Gorgeous theater!!!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm

This article about the restoration of the Fox Oakland Theatre is by Kurt Schindler, principal of ELS Architecture and Urban Design, the Berkeley firm that did the plans for the renovation of the theater.

The firm’s web site also offers this page with several photos of the Fox.

In addition to the Fox, ELS has designed the restorations of the Grand Theatre in Tracy, California, the California Theatre in San Jose, and the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, formerly the Portland Theatre, in Portland, Oregon. More recently, ELS handled the renovation of the old AMC Kabuki multiplex for Sundance Cinemas.

Ian on March 12, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Two photos of the exterior taken in 2000, just after restoration had apparently started, but was not yet visible!



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