New Parkway Theater gets new home on 24th Street

The location of the new Parkway Theater, at 474 24th Street, off Telegraph Avenue.

The location of the new Parkway Theater, at 474 24th Street, off Telegraph Avenue.

The New Parkway Speakeasy Theater has a new home.

On Friday afternoon, J Moses Ceaser, the managing partner of a small group of investors called New Parkway Entertainment, signed a 13-year lease to open a new movie theater right off Telegraph Avenue near downtown Oakland, at 474 24th Street. The new theater will employ the same concept that worked so well that previous location on the east side of Lake Merritt—cheap tickets, pizza, cold beer and room full of couches.

“We’re excited to get something done,” Ceaser said. “Exhausted, but it looks like we’re going to move forward with things.”

The New Parkway doesn’t have a name yet—Ceaser said “Parkway” will be in the name somehow, and the place will likely be called “The New Parkway”—and the plain brown building looks like a warehouse, not the two-screen movie house it will soon become. Ceaser said he likes the location—close to public transportation and in the Art Murmur area for First Fridays—and that he hopes to have the theater up and running in six to 10 months.

“I’m very hesitant to say for sure about anything,” Ceaser said of the timetable of opening the place, “because in the beginning of 2011, I wrote a note that said ‘This is the year the theater is going to open.’”

The process certainly took a lot longer than Ceaser would have liked. The lease signing completes a one-and-a-half year struggle to find a home for that concept that proved so popular at its original location, on Park Boulevard, from 1997 to 2009. The original Parkway Theater closed after the previous owners’ lease expired, and problems with the landlord arose.

Earlier this year, Ceaser and his partners began negotiating for a new lease at the Park Boulevard location, but could not come to an agreement with the landlord over managing and paying for repairs to the building, which Ceaser said would cost more than $1 million to fix. Ceaser said his group walked away from those negotiations on July 15. Ceaser than set a deadline for the end of the year to get a lease signed, or he promised to return the thousands of dollars the group had collected from the 998 backers of the Parkway’s Kickstarter campaign.

Since then, the group has been scouting other possible locations around Oakland, trying to find a building around 10,000-14,000 square feet they could convert into a movie theater. They came close to signing a lease at 2800 Broadway, but the building was sold to someone else. They also entered into negotiations with the owners of buildings at 23rd Street and Broadway, and 48th Street and Shattuck in Temescal, but “there was always some kind of deal breaker,” Ceaser said.

The landlord for the location at 23rd and Broadway wanted the Parkway group as tenants, Ceaser said, but that deal was contingent on the property not selling—its owner had previously agreed to sell the property to a developer. The Parkway group then got in touch with that developer in hopes of negotiating with them as well, in case they did buy the property and needed a tenant. In those negotiations, they leaned from a broker of the property at 474 24th Street, near Valley Street.

Ceaser said that though that building was smaller than they preferred—around 8,000 square feet—they liked the location and also that the owner knew and loved the old Parkway. Plus, since the place was smaller, the cost came at a far cheaper price than anything they had looked at before. They began negotiations last week.

Ceaser said that while the new place isn’t perfect, and the group would have preferred to reopen at the original Parkway location, they’re excited to move forward with a place that will house the concept they love.

“It’s kind of a big warehouse, and that will feel different than a big theater that was built in the 1920s,” Ceaser said. “But we’ll make up for it with better pizza. And the beer will still be cold. And we’ll have couches. When it comes down to it, people want the theater back.”

10 Comments

  1. livegreen

    Typically, the new location will be a service industry that replaces a warehouse/manufacturing location and the blue collar jobs that go along with it.

    Curious how the zoning laws regulate this. Not that it will be a problem, since the Planning Commission will automatically approve the CUP to fit the service business, as it always does.

  2. livegreen

    I hope the old Parkway has a way to keep their name too. Otherwise that building will be unusable with the gigantic neon Parkway on it’s top, in addition to the name on the marquee out front.

    As for the SanFran landlord of the old Parkway, the least one can say about them is that they’re penny wise and pound foolish. The City extends low interest loans for the type of repairs that are needed.

    I also don’t understand why the City won’t use it’s blight ordinances to force them to repair a structure in such disrepair? That’s a reason it has such ordinances and it quite possibly would have convinced them to lease on reasonable terms…

  3. Ron

    Is this a joke? A warehouse in an area with no residents and no parking? A building with no windows? I’m just glad I wasn’t one of the people duped by the Parkway people into donating funds to keep the theater open. The original theater – an actual theater building – served a neighborhood where many people could walk to the venue. The new proprietor claimed he would re-open it and fooled a lot of neighbors into supporting that effort. Now they are supposed to drive to an industrial area or take a bus to see a film in an ugly boxy warehouse? give me a break….. And since it’s not near a park or Park blvd, the name needs to be changed to something more appropriate, like the Dumpway.

    • gem

      I’m not sure why you think there are no residents in this area- it’s walking distance from Downtown and Adam’s Point. There’s an enormous parking lot right across the street. Whole Foods is like three blocks away, and seems to be doing okay. It’s certainly not an “industrial area” by any stretch of the imagination. Are you even from Oakland?

      If you’ve been paying attention, the new proprietors and many people from the city tried for *years* to get back in the old space. Your post makes it sound like some sort of bait and switch took place, when if you read the article you would know that the Chengs failed to agree to lease out the building in spite of Redevelopment and Oakland Business Development money being promised to them. Your beef is with the owners of the previous theatre, who seem to be happy to let it fall into disrepair as it sits vacant.

    • James

      Or perhaps the artmurmurway?

    • bud

      There are a lot of residences in the stretch. I live across the street and we’re all excited about having accessible, affordable entertainment every night of the month.

  4. uriel dana

    The original Parkway was a wonderful, fun, local theater and I am sure it will thrive in its new location. I would like to know who owns the physical location of the now closed theater. The property owners have let it become a blight on the neighborhood. It is covered with horrible graffiti, ghetto images cover every inch of space in garish spray paint that is completely ruining a neighborhood where people are working hard to improve and uplift. Businesses have remodeled, there are new lights and roads and then this theater makes us look like a slum. (With the combined apathy of the new O’reily’s auto part store, also covered with graffiti.
    The property owners did a disservice to everyone by losing the Parkway Speakeasy. They need to tear down or repair the building.

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