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Photo Courtesy of the Oakland History Room

Photo Courtesy of the Oakland History Room

When Vernon J. Sappers took this photo circa 1925, the Parkway Theater was still an empty frame of moulded metal. It would be months before architect Mark T. Jorgensen’s sunburst would appear on the building’s facade, and nearly half-a century before couches would replace much of the main floor seating. An independent arts cinema, porn theater and second-run movie house—these phases remodeled the Parkway anew over 84 years.

It could be that the Parkway faces its biggest renovation yet. And not simply reinstall the “picture, pub and pizza” vibe.

In case you haven’t heard the news, the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that a group of investors called the Motion Picture Heritage Company has its eye on the Parkway. (Note: the building was dedicated in 1925, not 1926 as reported.) They are a chain of movie theaters based in the Midwest and the front man is a movie lover named Bill Dever. He became interested when Will “The Thrill” Viharo, who directed programming at the speakeasy to 12 years, showed him the I Like the Parkway website.

“The bottom line is that you have a venue that needs some help, and a venue that is economically viable, and I think that it’s intriguing, Dever said. “We’re a firm believer, corporately, that the theater should reflect the social mores and outlook and wishes of the community it serves.”

This could be a great opportunity for fans, who enjoyed a brew with their view of the silver screen. A disclaimer: nothing is set in stone yet. And no one at I Like the Parkway—the resident and business advocates for a refurbished theater—has seen the business proposal. Dever did say he wants to take the former template and remodel it a bit. This would include re-working the concessions.

“[The Parkway] could have something with an Alice Waters feel, something organic and reflective of the community—a green menu that would have a belgian brasserie on site, which would not have any of the fru-fru, but the variety and quality of those places,” he said.

Dever seems interested in reinstating Will Viharo as program director. Will writes public relations pieces for one of Dever’s film release companies, called Monogram Releasing.

“It would be great to work with someone who shares this passion for films with me,” Will said, who also intimated that the new management would permit more types of screenings at the theater. “Big film companies like giant corporations; that’s the model. [But] the thing about this deal, is the Parkway would be taken over by a chain but run like an indie theater.”


Update: Will “The Thrill” Viharo posted on his blog last week that things are moving slowly but surely with the Parkway negotiations. Nothing is set in stone, of course. But a preliminary inspection of the venue has taken place and each stone has been turned to see what an overhaul upgrade would cost. Subscribe to Will’s Thrillville blog for the latest details.