Moulin Rouge Theatre

485 8th Street,
Oakland, CA 94607

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The Gem Theatre was opened in 1909. In 1933, it was renamed Moulin Rouge Theatre. Later becoming an adult theatre, it operated into the 1970’s.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

AndyT
AndyT on February 16, 2004 at 4:37 am

When I was a kid I thought the signature windmill was pretty cool, but could never understand why we didn’t got a movie there —– I guess a Russ Meyers film would have been quite an education!!!

Diana
Diana on March 1, 2004 at 3:36 pm

My grandfather owned the Moulin Rouge and I am looking for as much information as I can find on him and the theatre. When I find more out I will write more then. His name was Robert Lewis. He was a retired policeman. If anyone can help me I would appriciate it. Thank you Gary Parks for your help.

DBoelke
DBoelke on October 22, 2004 at 5:17 pm

Apparently, the tradition of “adult fare” at the Moulin Rouge was a long one. Various sources, including the IMDB filmography list “Ding Dong A Night at the Moulin Rouge,” as having been filmed there in 1948.

Do any photos exist of its neon and metal windmill facade that Garrett Murphy mentioned? For that matter, do any photos exist of any part of this theatre?

gsmurph
gsmurph on November 20, 2004 at 9:56 am

Uh, David Boelke—-it was Gary Parks who mentioned the windmill.

DevilDoll
DevilDoll on January 14, 2005 at 12:56 pm

In the late 1990’s the windmill sign was taken down by an antiques/junk/etc. dealer who then put it out for sale on his lot on 5th St. I went to take photos of it, & asked about buying it. He wanted a 4 or 5 figure amount, way out of my budget. Sadly, all I came away with that day were some pictures. As far as I know, he was unable to sell it, & within a year or two, his business was closed. I am very curious to know what became of the windmill. The sign was not in working order, but definitely could have been restored to its former glory. I also have one picture of it when it was still on the front of the the theatre, which I took sometime in the mid-1980’s. If anyone would like to see these pictures, let me know & I will scan & e-mail them.

DevilDoll
DevilDoll on January 26, 2005 at 9:09 am

On page 84 of ‘Oakland’s Chinatown’ by William Wong (from Arcadia Publshing’s Images of America series), there is a 1958 photo of the block on 8th Street where the Moulin Rouge stood. Although the theatre is in the far right-hand corner of the photograph, one can get an idea of what it looked like, windmill sign & all.

robertcampbell
robertcampbell on April 14, 2005 at 10:27 pm

i remember as a kid walking by the moulin rouge. It was called “the red mill” and had a delapidated looking mill, which did not turn but was barely lit in blue and white. Passing by you could smell the odor or urine and at that time there were a lot of low budget hotels, the theatre was in the skid row section off of Washington and 8th. Lots of hobos and drunks. My dad said when he was a sailor he would go there and to the El Rey.

bmsinmd
bmsinmd on March 22, 2011 at 11:46 am

I remember the Moulin Rouge as a rather seedy burlesque house on 8th Street in skid-row Oakland in 1962. I was a student at men-only St. Mary’s College in Moraga; several of us, driven by hormones, would cruise Oakland looking for hookers, and at least once went inside for a burly-Q show. I don’t remember the show as particularly titillating – Tempest Storm was NOT on stage that nite – but I do remember – and cherish – the sort of seamy atmosphere of the theater and the neighborhood. Great stuff!

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on August 24, 2012 at 9:13 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

cosmocanuck
cosmocanuck on June 16, 2014 at 11:03 pm

It was in derelict condition then, but back in the late 80’s when I lived in Oakland, I was quite taken by the ruins of the Moulin Rouge and wondered what it was like in its heyday. Somewhere I think I have some photos of it from that time.

I also have just unearthed a TV news report that briefly shows the theatre, in the abandoned state it was in at the time, in the late 80’s:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI0ZjHY__us

By the way, the view that comes up (at least as of June 2014) in the Google map street view above, is across from the Moulin Rouge. Just drag your mouse to see the actual location across the street.

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