Group to Hold Meeting About Possible Reopening of Oakland's Parkway Theater

Bay City News
Thursday May 28, 2009 - 01:47:00 PM

Community members in Oakland will meet this Sunday to discuss an investment offer made this week to take over the former Parkway Speakeasy Theater in Oakland, which closed earlier this year.  

The offer was made by the Indiana-based group Motion Picture Heritage, according to Peter Prato, spokesman for “I Like The Parkway,” a group that formed in response to the March 22 closure of the theater. 

The Parkway, located just east of Lake Merritt, claimed to be the first theater in California to offer food, beer and wine service in a lounge-style movie theater. 

“I Like the Parkway” is holding a community meeting at 3 p.m. Sunday at Rooz Cafe, located at 1918 Park Blvd., just down the street from the site of the theater, to continue to galvanize support for the theater. 

“The major thrust of the meeting is to get a sense of the community and what they’d like to see in a venue,” said Patsy Eagan, an organizer for the group. 

Bill Dever, manager of the Motion Picture Heritage organization, said he visited the Parkway during a trip to the Bay Area, and is a friend of Will Viharo, a longtime employee at the theater. The Parkway would be the first West Coast theater run by the organization, he said. 

Dever declined to comment on the negotiations to take over the theater, but said his group, which runs a chain of theaters in various Midwest states, is “focused on revitalizing, rehabilitating and running old motion picture houses, and bringing back the culture of film-going.” 

The “I Like the Parkway” group has worked with Oakland City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, who represents District 2 where the theater is located. 

Prato said the group is working with Kernighan’s office to stay in touch with the landlords of the building, who are mulling the offer from the investors in the Midwest. 

“The most important thing for us is making sure we do our part, so if and when the theater reopens, it stays open,” Prato said. 

The group has a website, www.iliketheparkway.com, that updates the community on upcoming events related to the theater. A Facebook group created by the organizers has more than 6,800 members. 

The previous owners of the Parkway, Kyle and Catherine Fischer, also owned a theater in El Cerrito, the Cerrito Speakeasy Theater. That venue also recently closed. 

The Fischers have posted a message on their website, www.picturepubpizza.com, thanking people “who have enjoyed what we  

have offered, who have shared in our vision and who love the idea of building  

and sharing community.”