Paramount lobby / photo Michael Miller Collection, Theatre Historical Society of America

Paramount Theatre milestone recalls dazzling renovation [Oakland, Calif.]

By Annalee Allen
Oakland Tribune columnist

Posted: 11/13/2011 12:00:00 AM PST


Paramount lobby / photo Michael Miller Collection, Theatre Historical Society

Oakland’s landmark Paramount Theatre is approaching a big milestone. On Dec. 16, it will be 80 years since the opulent Art Deco movie palace opened its doors.

A look at its calendar shows that, while no specific event is planned to commemorate the date, there are plenty of other events and programs coming up, including the always-anticipated performances of the Nutcracker Ballet.

A crowd of 5,000 was on hand that evening 80 years ago when the theater opened for the first time. Construction had started exactly a year previously, in December 1930. It would be the last important theater of its type to be built in California and, at the time, construction of the project was seen as a boost to the local economy, given that the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression.

Hundreds of artisans, steelworkers, plumbers, carpenters and builders worked on the theater. Renowned Art Deco architect Timothy L. Pflueger was the designer. The 130-foot wide and 150-foot long auditorium was outfitted with close to 3,500 seats. After the theater’s splashy opening, a staff of 150 saw to the needs of patrons.

Decades later, like its neighbor the Fox Theater, which was built two years earlier two blocks away, the Paramount underwent a dazzling renovation after suffering years of neglect. Its painstaking restoration took place in the 1970s when it was decided that it would become the home to the Oakland Symphony. A community fundraising campaign that urged people to pledge “a buck” raised $1 million toward the renovation cost. Work got under way in December 1972 and the doors opened again in September 1973. …

… Files in the library’s History Room have much more on the Paramount and also on the life of Calvin Simmons. Do you have a memory to share? If so, Dorothy Lazard, History Room librarian, asks that you send in a letter, by mail (no emails, please) in care of the Oakland History Room, Main Library, 125 14th St. Oakland, CA 94612. Your memories and comments will be added to the files.

The Paramount’s web address is Be sure to take note of guided tours of the theater’s interiors, offered on the first and third Saturdays of the month.

The Oakland Tours Program is accepting requests for reservations for group tours of five or more in the Uptown, which includes visits to the outside of the Paramount and the Fox. For details, go to

For the complete story, go to


One Comment

  1. Our first “date” was at the Paramount. They were still showing movies and there was a new car touting the wares of the local Chevy dealer on the orchestra lift that was raised to stage level during intermission. We also had matching beige tuxedos and ruffled shirts for re-opening night 9/1973. Joh Scott Trotter lead the orchestra, Lola Falana danced, and Donald O’Connor was so drunk on stage that he eventually gave his fee back. We were lucky to have The Orinda, The Paramount, The Rheem Valley and The Alameda deco theatres as our local movie houses in the late 1960s.

Leave a Comment

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


© Theatre Historical Society of America. York Theatre Building • 152 N. York Street, 2nd floor • Elmhurst, IL 60126-2806 • Ph. (630) 782-1800 • Fax (630) 782-1802 • • Copyright © 2013 Theatre Historical Society of America. All rights reserved.