Central Theatre

1432 Broadway,
Oakland, CA 94612

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Century Theatre exterior

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Ye Liberty Playhouse opened as a stage theater in an office building (that was later added to and became a skyscraper) in 1904 and was considered a leading playhouse of its kind in the Bay Area.

It was briefly known as the Hippodrome Theatre for a year before returning to its original name and was also briefly called the MacArthur Theatre, but it became best known to moviegoers as the Century Theatre (1922) and the Central Theatre (1933 to its closure and demolition in 1960).

Though the theater is long gone, the office building stands as one of downtown Oakland’s premier highrises.

Contributed by Garrett Murphy

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

AndyT
AndyT on February 16, 2004 at 7:17 am

As a kid living in downtown Oakland, I remember the sputtering close of the Central. Open for a few weeks, then closed for a month or two, then open again. The entire drama was telegraphed by the theater’s huge marquee on Broadway. Hey, even as a youngster, I was paying attention to this stuff!!!

JohnRice
JohnRice on June 16, 2005 at 8:17 pm

I remember the Central fondly as still a grand old place in the late 1950’s. Like the nearby Lux, it had a second run double feature policy with continuous showings starting at 10 a.m. Admission prices were low and presentation was very good. I remember seeing “Oklahoma!: there in 4 channel magnetic stereo sound and it looked and sounded nearly as good as it would at the Fox Oakland a few blocks away.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on July 28, 2007 at 11:51 pm

This was in the Oakland Tribune on 2/3/60:

Curtain Coming Down for Theater

The curtain will ring down for the last time at the Central Theater â€" now a motion picture house but once one of Oakland’s foremost legitimate theaters â€" within the next three months the 1,500-seat auditorium will be ripped down and replaced with a parking lot. Five stores fronting on Franklin St. also will be torn down for the same $30,000 project. Henry Trevor, San Francisco real estate man and agent for the owners of the theater and other buildings, announced yesterday that the auditorium and store buildings will be demolished to make way for a 100-car, semiprivate parking lot.

Only the lobby of the Central Theater, fronting at 1424 Broadway, will remain standing. It will be converted into a store, according to Trevor. The theater opened as Ye Liberty Playhouse in 1904,
with Harry W. Bishop as manager. The first of the scores of legitimate theater productions on its stage was “A Bachelor’s Romance”. In 1933 the theater was converted for the exclusive showing of motion pictures and was re-named the Central Theater. The event was marked by a parade down Broadway. The Central has remained a motion picture theater since that time. It is now operated by United-California Theaters, Inc.

Twenty-one persons are employed at the theater, which is managed by Dick Scott. No closing date has been set. The new parking lot will front on Franklin St. Termination notices already have been sent to lessors of the stores on Franklin. They are the California Coin Shop at 1315 Franklin; Peck’s Cocktail Lounge at 1417 Franklin; Dr. Jonas Herman, optometrist at 1425 Franklin; the California Hearing Aid Center, 1429 Franklin; and the Chat and Chew Cafe at 1433 Franklin.

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