Architecture – Art Deco Buildings – Oakland Paramount Theatre

Paramount opened in 1931 instantly becoming iconic presentation of the Art Deco style. This overly opulent building was designed by San Francisco architect Timothy L. Pflueger, and truly glorifies the Art Deco design at its’ zenith. Completed project incorporated art work of multiple artists.

Originally intended as a movie palace to ride the rise of the industry in late 1920s, the grand new place could not stay afloat with operating costs of $27,000 per week. Building was shut down in 1932 and re-opened a year later in 1933 under a new management. The venue took off after eliminating the debt and re-structuring its operations. 

(Source: the Library of Congress)

Paramount was able to adapt to demands of following decades, while at the same time the television was on the rise, competing with movie theatres.

In 1970, Paramount closed for the second time, squeezed out of the commission by smaller movie theatres. This was rather not an uncommon fate of many glorious theatre buildings across the country.

Stage décor (Source: the Library of Congress)

Panoramic overview of the central stage décor

Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association came to the rescue in 1972 purchasing the Paramount for $1 million. Remodeling took place replacing carpets with the replica of the original, replacing and spacing out chairs, and adding bars on the mezzanine and the lower levels. Finally, building re-opened in 1973. 

Men’s Lounge (Source: the Library of Congress)

The Ladies’ Lounge detail (source: Wikipedia)

  • August 14, 1973 – building was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.
  • In 1977 Paramount became U.S. National Historical Landmark.

In 1986 the Oakland Symphony filed for the bankruptcy, even after it transferred the Paramount to the City of Oakland in 1975 for 40 years of free rent.  To help the City manage the Paramount and ease the burden of operating costs, a group of seven private individuals offered to manage and operate the theatre on behalf of the city as a non-profit organization. This arrangement is still in place.


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