Oakland has a rich theatre history, from the amusements of a gas-lit downtown light opera and vaudeville stage in the 1870s to the ornate cinematic escape portals of the Great Depression. Dozens of neighborhood theatres, once the site of family outings and first dates, remain cherished memories in the lives of Oaklanders. The city can still boast three fabulous movie palaces from the golden age of cinema: the incomparable art deco Paramount, which now offers live performances and films; the stately Grand Lake gracing the sinuous shores of Lake Merritt; and the magnificently eccentric Fox Oakland, with its imposing Hindu gods flanking the stage. The Paramount and Grand Lake still stir the heartstrings of patrons with showings preceded by interludes on their mighty Wurlitzer organs.
Author Bio: Jack Tillmany, recognized authority on early cinema and author of the Images of America volume Theatres of San Francisco, draws from a personal archive gathered during a 30-year career in cinema management. Coauthor Jennifer Dowling collects movie-related ephemera, writes, and gives illustrated talks on the history of Oakland’s commercial districts. Together they draw back the heavy curtain of time to rediscover Oakland’s theatrical treasures.
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