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New Parkway Theater operator considers Auto Row, Temescal sites

on July 28, 2011

If and when the Parkway Speakeasy Theater reopens, it won’t be at its former location east of Lake Merritt on Park Boulevard. Negotiations between a potential new operator and the building’s owners ended earlier this month, but two new possible locations, in the Auto Row and Temescal areas, remain in play.

From 1997 to 2009, the Parkway showed second-run films for cheap and served pizza and beer in a theater filled with couches. But the theater closed after the previous owners’ lease expired, and problems arose with the landlord and a failed expansion project in El Cerrito. The building also needs extensive repairs to the roof, restrooms, and plumbing and electrical systems in order to reopen.

Last year, a new potential operator for the Parkway began negotiating with the owners of the Park Boulevard building, Yan and Judy Cheng. J Moses Ceaser, the managing partner for a small group of investors called New Parkway Entertainment, said he began negotiating with the Chengs for a new lease earlier this year but could not come to an agreement over managing and paying for repairs to the building, which Ceaser said would cost more than $1 million to fix. Moses said New Parkway walked away from those negotiations on July 15. (The Chengs did not return an emailed request for comment.)

So what was once a popular movie theater is now a concept looking for a home.

“Our commitment is to have the Parkway Theater reopen in Oakland,” said Ceaser, a customer of the Parkway for years. “I think location is secondary in some ways to the concept.”

Ceaser said that the New Parkway has partnered with a non-profit developer that will help buy a building in Oakland. They’ve made offers on two locations: 2800 Broadway in the heart of Auto Row, and 4799 Shattuck in Temescal, the location of the old Ligure Club.

Ceaser said the Broadway location, which was once an auto reupholstery shop, is the preferred pick, though they’re $300,000 apart with the owners in negotiations that began two weeks ago. He said that while the building needs some fixing up, it has 13,000 square feet of space and two arches that could be the shells for two theaters.

“I think it’s very well suited to be a theater space,” Moses said, “and I think it has just enough quirk and funk that people would like it.”

Ceaser said they also made an offer was made on the old Ligure Club building “eight or nine months ago” that was declined, though they’re still in negotiations. However, it’s not in one of the city’s redevelopment zones, meaning there would be less money and support available from the city, though the redevelopment agency’s future is also in doubt.

Ceaser said city officials previously hoped the Parkway would remain on Park Boulevard but have now supported a move to Broadway. Calls to the city redevelopment office for comment were not returned Wednesday.

“The idea is if the Parkway Theater goes there, this may spur a lot more development going up Broadway,” he said.

Ceaser said $50,000 was raised in a Kickstarter campaign to reopen the theater in 2011, but now that negotiations to keep it on Park Boulevard have fallen through, the earliest it could open would be 2012. He said he’d like to have it open—wherever it is—by the third anniversary of the theater’s shutdown, March 13, 2012. He said it will take about seven months to renovate a building after they have a secured lease.

If neither of the two sites currently in negotiation work out, Ceaser said, there are two other sites currently being considered—one at Mandela and Grant in West Oakland and one at 23rd Street and Broadway—and more will be considered if those don’t pan out. But if a lease is not signed by the end of 2011, Ceaser said he’d give up on reopening the Parkway and return money to investors.

Regardless of where the Parkway reopens, Ceaser said the theater would still be an affordable nightlife option.

“We’re still committed to people being able to spend $20 to get into the movie, get a decent meal, and get a cold beer,” he said. “I don’t think there are many places where you can make that happen.”




  1. Tim Anderson on July 28, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Wow. All great locations but Broadway really does seem ideal!

    • Jan on July 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

      Why not the Broadway site?

  2. Dave Bryan on July 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Broadway does sound like a great location! So close to other restaurants and night life.

    What’s with the owners of the original location? Do they like paying expensive property taxes on an empty, decaying building?

  3. denise on July 30, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Broadway is perfect and AutoRow is just desperate for a rebirth.

  4. dj on August 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I remember both areas having so much potential. Auto Row, although in need of major work, has so much more to offer than it’s being thought of.

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