In 2009, Oakland mourned the closing of The Parkway Theater, a beloved Oakland mainstay that helped revitalize a neighborhood. The Parkway was a film lovers dream- cult films, film festivals, pizza and beer served to at your seat. Struggles over leases and landlords forced the original owners to close.
Enter J. Moses Caesar, an entrepreneur and developer who announced plans to reopen the parkway. Caesar kept the public well-informed about his struggles to take over the lease and then, finally trying to find a new location. As a follower on the mailing list, I admit that I gave up hope thinking that he would be successful.
Then, one day a few months ago, a space at 474 24th Street in downtown Oakland was secured. So this was really happening! On Friday, February 3 during the Oakland First Friday Art Murmur, the space was open to public viewing. I, along with hundreds of others, eagerly visited the space in the Uptown neighborhood.
Right now, the space is a large warehouse space with the bare minimum of structures (except for some kick-ass murals). Blueprints for the theater were available for display, which promised two theaters, a full-service kitchen, and a retro-looking lit up marquee.
I, more than most, want this theater to happen, especially for Oakland. Although, I am not ready to celebrate just yet- I think the ultimate success really depends on trial by error, we won’t see until it opens:
Downtown Oakland is continuing to grow with new restaurants and bars opening almost monthly, it seems like the perfect place to capture the demographic it needs. Based on the success, more restaurants or other retail would benefit from opening on the same street or nearby.
It is BART and AC Transit accessible.
With movie prices at multiplexes are getting ridiculous, the Parkway, although probably offering the same price for movies, will provide a more unique experiences with the comfortable seating, friendlier staff, and special features like trivia nights and cult films.
Parking. There’s not a whole lot of street parking in the area, and several of the surrounding streets are not well lit and have mostly closed warehouses and businesses that close before the evening. Then there’s the issue of pain-in-the ass parking regulations in Oakland- some spaces are for 2-hour parking only and vary in street-cleaning regulations.
Safety. I am not going to succumb to any perceptions of downtown Oakland being “unsafe”, but there is a reality of the situation to face. The perception of violent crime that happens in downtown may be exaggerated, but more people parking in the area and walking back to their cars late at night creates crimes of opportunity. Originally the developers were looking to lease one of the former car dealerships that are right on busy Broadway, but this address is quite tucked away on a side street.
Success as a business. When it does open, the anticipation and press will draw many people to try it out, but can the Parkway sustain repeat customers? The long-term prospects on any new business are very risky.
In the meantime, I am eagerly anticipating the opening of the Parkway sometime in the Summer of Fall of 2012. I can’t wait for it to make Oakland even more awesome than it already is.
The New Parkway Theater
474 24th Street (coming soon)