Fox Oakland Theatre in Oakland
The Fox Oakland Theatre is a 2,800-seat movie theater, located at 1807 Telegraph Avenue in downtown Oakland, California. The theater was designed by Weeks and Day, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and reopened on February 5, 2009.
The Oakland Fox Theater, a 2,800 seat movie theater originally opened its doors on October 27, 1928 in downtown Oakland, California. After two years under construction, the opening was highly anticipated by the Bay Area residents; the Fox Theater became the 251st theater to open in the West Coast Theater chain. The launch of the Fox was expected to earn high earnings in the downtown district. Reestablishing the movie industry, the Fox offered the opportunity to stray from the silent films and helped introduce the “talkies” by having a live stage show. As the Fox Theater made its debut, so did the Paramount Theater, it was also located in the downtown.
Macadamize with terra cotta, rich colors, intricate gold accents, and distinctive dome, the theater’s design redefined architecture in that era. The interior of the Fox Theater was delicately crafted and said to be described as “mystical”. The unpreserved theater suffered many tragedies during its forty year abandoned period. Deteriorated by several arson fires, disastrous vandalism, and decay, restoring the once prestigious Fox Theater was not an easy task.<ref name="FoxOakland" /> The historical landmark suffered great damages, but it was evident that many locals supported the idea of renovating an important element of Oakland’s culture. In addition, “Friends of the Oakland Fox” was created by supporting community members.<ref name="Friendsof" /> Friends of the Oakland Fox or also known as FOOF raised funding for the elaborate $75 million restoration process. President of FOOF, Phil Tagami was a significant contributor to the restoration of the Fox. Being part of the restoration team, Tagami stood closely by the theater for over twenty years, in hope of seeing the Fox Theater open its doors once again.<ref name="FoxOakland" /> Official restorations took place in 1999, kicking off an extensive procedure.<ref name="TheFox" /> In 2001, the somber marquee was successfully restored and once again illuminated the streets of downtown Oakland.<ref name="ReferenceA"/> As the elaborate process began, there were a lot of speculations regarding the future success of the stagnant theater.
A new beginning
February 2009 marked the beginning of a new era for the Fox. After being neglected for forty years, the once glamorous theater made its comeback.<ref name="FoxOakland_a" /> Accentuating its revival, the theater’s grand opening night featured a “roaring twenties” theme celebrating the newly renovated theater. Many attended the imminent premiere that celebrated the city’s prized possession. The reopening of the Fox embodied a whole new dimension of the Fox Theater. The newly renovated theater now offered more to the public. From a wide variety of spectacles, the grand opening night attracted a large crowd of intrigued guests. The anticipation of entering the Fox was conspicuous and once a guest entered the theater, all expectations were met. The Oakland Fox Theater now serves as a school, restaurant, and prominent live concert venue. It has hosted many concerts by various recognizable artists such as Beirut, Air, Bob Dylan, Green Day, Wolfmother, Alice in Chains, Mastodon (band), Kylie Minogue, Animal Collective & The Decemberists since its opening.
The Oakland Fox Theater is now home of the Oakland School for the Arts, a Charter school founded in 2002 which enrolls students from 6-12th grade specializing in the arts. The Oakland School for the Arts or also known as OSA, waited three years to occupy the renowned facility and currently is settled in the new upstairs space of the Fox. The Bank of America provided the necessary funding for the school to obtain the space. Another great distinguishable feature is the newly constructed restaurant called The Den. The new restaurant features a great variety of food and a bar that can be found alongside The Den. With the new features, the Oakland Fox Theater targets a wide range of audience from kids to adults.
The Fox Oakland Theatre opened as a cinema on October 27, 1928 with the Fox Film Corporation movie The Air Circus. Originally intended to be named "The Bagdad" (sic) because of its Middle Eastern influenced architecture, it was instead given the name "West Coast Oakland". In 1929, it was renamed the "Fox Oakland" when William Fox bought the West Coast Theatres chain and merged it with his Fox Theatres chain. The theater housed a Wurlitzer theatre organ -- the organ was sold in 1960 and is now in a private home in Shingletown, California.
By the 1960s, the theater was in decline on account of the trend toward smaller multiplex theaters. It stopped showing first-run movies in 1962, dabbled briefly in softcore porn films, and permanently closed in 1970, after showing its final film, Let It Be with The Beatles.
After closing, the theater barely escaped destruction several times. It suffered an arson fire in 1973 but was not heavily damaged. The city considered tearing it down in 1975 to make room for a parking lot. The theater was spared when it was made an Oakland City Landmark in 1978. The following year it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1996, the City of Oakland bought the building for $3 million. Some badly needed restoration work began in 1999. By late 2001, the marquee and blade sign had been restored. In December 2004, the Oakland Redevelopment Agency received a $2.9 million grant for further restoration of the theater. There are plans for Oakland School for the Arts to move into the theater and construction began in September 2006. After a long 3 year wait, the school finally moved into the theater. Bank of America provided the financing for the rehabilitation.
Rebirth The Fox reopened on February 5, 2009 with a spectacular Gala and Roaring 20's theme. The theater is now operated, primarily as a concert venue, by Berkeley-based Another Planet Entertainment. While the first several shows during February (including Social Distortion, Will Downing and Ragga Muffins Festival) drew large crowds, the theater had no bookings during March, while construction of the 'Den' [bar/lounge] neared completion, and other theater improvements were being made. The Den had a grand opening of its own March 27, which was only the beginning of a blockbuster, spring season for the Fox; April and May combined, included 19 headline acts. The list included—in random order—some long-time names: Jeff Beck, (two consecutive nights of) The Allman Brothers, The Moody Blues, and B.B. King, Franz Ferdinand and a "surprise", new album-promotion concert by locals Green Day were among a group of more acts which graced the Fox's stage. More contemporary, popular artists/groups including Keane and Seal entertained crowds during May. In September Australian pop icon, Kylie Minogue toured North America for the first time in her For You, For Me Tour with the first two shows performed in the theatre.
- Fox Theatre for Fox Theatres in other U.S. cities
- Grand Lake Theater
- Movie palace
- Paramount Theater (Oakland, California)
- Oakland School for the Arts
- Bagwell, Beth. Oakland: The Story of a City. Oakland Heritage Alliance, 1996.
- Fox Oakland Theater Restoration Project. 2007. Oct. 2009 http://www.oaklandfox.com.
- Friends of the Oakland Fox. 2004-2009. Oct. 2009 http://www.foxoakland.org.
- "Kylie Minogue preps for first ever North American tour." Live Daily. 6 May 2009. Oct. 2009
- Oakland School for the Arts. 2009. Oct. 2009 website.
- The Fox Oakland. 2009. Another Planet. Oct. 2009 Fox Oakland.com.
- "Oakland's Historic Fox Theater Reopens." CBS Channel 5, 5 Feb. 2009; Oct. 2009.
- Friends of the Oakland Fox website
- The Oakland Fox Theater website
- Oakland Fox Theater at Cinema Treasures
- Fox Oakland Theatre Restoration Project