The Paramount Theatre, one of Oakland’s premier venues since 1931, is celebrated as one of the finest art deco buildings not just in California, but in the country. Designed by famed San Francisco architect Timothy L. Pflueger, the Paramount incorporated the works of leading muralists, sculptors, and painters. The Great Depression proved a difficult time to open a theater with high operating costs, however, and the Paramount closed after less than a year. When it reopened in 1933 under new ownership, the venue survived by screening movies but also staging talent shows, prize nights, and sponsored events.
A few years after closing for a second time, in 1970, the Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association bought the theatre and with help from private donors restored the institution to its original, gilded 1931 splendor. Stand outside and marvel at the meticulously restored, towering mosaics on the building’s façade, then step inside to the head-swiveling display of golden bas-reliefs and classic art deco patterns and symbols decorating the interior.
Today, the Oakland Ballet and the Oakland East Bay Symphony are resident companies at the Paramount, but it’s role as a movie house continues with Paramount Movie Classics nights. Kicked off by an hour of live Mighty Wurlitzer organ music, these evenings feature screenings of 35mm film prints, plus vintage news reels, cartoons, and games and prizes. The Paramount is a theatre that can rock, too: Bruce Springsteen has played to a sold-out house from the Paramount’s stage, and comedian Chris Rock has performed here several times. Check the calendar of events to see what bands, comedians, Broadway shows, and dance companies will be taking the stage in the coming months.
Insider’s tip: Learn more about the Paramount’s amazing architecture on 2-hour guided tours offered the first and third Saturdays of the month (there’s a nominal fee for the tour). No reservations are necessary; children must be over the age of 10. Private group tours are available as well.