Downtown Theatre

416 12th Street,
Oakland, CA 94612

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Pantages Lobby Cornice Detail

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This theatre, built in 1912, is probably best-known by its original name, Pantages Theatre, though it had numerous name changes throughout its life.

Those name changes included Lurie Theatre (1923), Hippodrome Theatre (1926), Premier Theatre (1932), Roosevelt Theatre (1934), and finally the Downtown Theatre (1939 until its closure in 1947).

The building was absorbed into an expansion by the adjacent Oakland Tribune; looking up from across 12th Street, one can still see the very top and stage-fly tower of what was the auditorium of the former Pantages Theater.

Contributed by Garrett Murphy

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

mlind
mlind on December 13, 2004 at 8:36 am

After being acquired by the Oakland Tribune, the ground floor was the printing plant and the composing room. Upstairs (balcony?) were offices, including the features department and the morgue (library). This was prior to the paper being moved to Jack London Square; it has moved back to the Tribune building.

GaryParks
GaryParks on March 25, 2008 at 11:15 am

With the recent conversion of the building to lofts and retail, the original ticket lobby ceiling was exposed—damaged, but with cornices, moldings, and a band of scroll brackets alternating with lighbulb sockets still extant. This ceiling and the upper parts of the walls, also original, has been retained, though as of this writing, not restored.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 25, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Here is an August, 2007 article from the Oakland Tribune about the Oakland Pantages theatre. It was quite a spectacular place in its day, as described in this excerpt: [quote]“Clippings in the history files reveal the excitement on a long ago August evening when Alex Pantages opened his second Bay Area live vaudeville theater. The date was Aug. 12, 1912. Local architects Matthew O'Brien and Carl Werner created the plans for the exterior shell, retail and office spaces, and Scottish-born Bernard Priteca (born in 1889) created the glamorous theater, according to files. Pantages and Priteca would go on to collaborate on several more theater projects throughout the West, through the 1920s.

“The masonry-clad building cost $130,000 to build, with completion of the theater space adding another quarter million. The theater seated 2,000 patrons, half on the orchestra floor, half on the balcony level. Patrons enjoyed mahogany and Russian leather backed chairs. At the sides were 11 proscenium boxes and 11 loges. The interior featured a color scheme of gold and ivory, with rose tint ionic-style plaster decorative elements. Marble mosaic panels decorated the vestibule, and separating the entry foyer from the theater were six pairs of 90-foot-tall gleaming bronze doors.”[/quote] I’m guessing that the “90-foot-tall” bronze doors were actually only nine feet high. Had they been 90 feet, they’d probably have been visible from San Francisco. But even with mere nine foot doors, the Pantages still sounds impressive.

mlind
mlind on March 26, 2008 at 9:45 am

From a male friend who worked at The Oakland Tribune in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The newspaper morgue (library) was located in the old theater. I asked him what he remembered:

“Actually they had a false ceiling but I do have some memories of the storage area where the photo dept was. That was up in the rafters sort of and it was a cubbyhole type area. Until they moved out the false ceiling I don’t think you could have seen it. The remodel was cheesy and they did a good job of making it ugly. I understand the women’s bathroom was great but of course I was never let in.”

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on April 2, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Here is an ad for the Roosevelt in the Oakland Tribune, July 1938:
http://tinyurl.com/c8qko7

nonsportsnut
nonsportsnut on March 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I’m doing research for the Three Stooges Fan Club, on black supporting player Dudley Dickerson. He MAY have been married to Marie Dickerson, who is listed in several Oakland Times articles as a performer at the Premiere in 1933.

Does anyone have any information on her? Thanks. Please email me at:
Frank Reighter

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Various issues of Building and Industrial News in 1911 indicate that the firm of O'Brien and Werner had already drawn the plans for this building before Alexander Pantages entered the project as lessee of the theater portion. At that time, B. Marcus Priteca was brought in to modify the theater design for Pantages. Had Priteca designed the building from the ground up, I’m sure the exterior would have been far more ornate than Matthew O'Brien and Carl Werner’s restrained commercial block.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm

O'Brien and Werner were experienced theater architects, by the way, having already designed several San Francisco houses including the first Mission Theatre, the Princess Theatre (later the Ellis), the first post-fire Orpheum (later the Garrick), the Valencia Theatre, and the 16th Street Theatre (later the Victoria.)

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on November 8, 2012 at 9:44 pm

This Google Books preview includes pages detailing the history of this theater with pictures: scroll down to view pp. 25-27.

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