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For now, the Parkway’s dreams of reopening are deferred. This week news broke that Motion Picture Heritage Alliance, a Midwestern-based cinema company, moved its business elsewhere.

It’s bad news for Oakland, and for Park Blvd. neighbors who wanted the boards on the storefront taken down. It appears then that the “Curious Case of Benjamin Button” poster will remain for the next while; Brad Pitt’s visage seems to mock passers-by that he’s the starring role in the forthcoming film based on the book “Money Ball,” by Michael Lewis. It’s about Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s (and presumably how we let players like Eric Byrnes go to other teams). Whatever you think about Pitt’s acting, it brings to mind an Oakland tendency: losing a good deal to somewhere else.

Recent developments show that while the Parkway’s closing felt sudden, it really suffered a slow financial death. Reportage of how the Cerrito theater bankrupted the Parkway reminded me of how it went down at Cody’s Books. Then and now, expansion proved too big for business. In another development, Oakland Focus blogger Zennie posted a heart-wrenching interview he had yesterday with the Fischers. No word from Pat Kernighan about the potential investors, or from the pro-Parkway movement at iliketheparkway. Its site remains quiet and has not been updated as of this posting. Blight, wherever you find it, is a sad thing.

But as reported, former Parkway programmer and host Will “The Thrill” Viharo remains optimistic about the theater’s fate. In an email announcement today, Viharo has said that talks between the city (District 2’s Pat Kernighan) and the potential investor (Mark Haskett) are officially on:

“Mark has very specific ideas on how to streamline the original business model. He shares my view that the overhead should be split between a team with specific theater experience and one with restaurant experience, working in concert under one roof. This has always seemed the most cost effective and efficient way to operate this kind of business, as far as I’m concerned.

“Anyway, some of the players have changed but the goal remains the same: let’s get this damn thing reopened. The longer it stays dark, the harder it will be to light up again.”

It would seem that the Parkway dream may come out of deferment. It did, at any rate, for a movie house outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Viharo mentioned in another email this week that the Motion Picture Heritage Alliance has revitalized another movie house called The Hollywood Theatre. It opened last weekend in Dormont, a southern suburb of the Iron City.

The Hollywood Theatre in Dormont, PA

On Opening Day: The Hollywood Theatre in Dormont, PA

It all started when Dormont’s city council president John Maggio approached Bill Dever at MPH to reopen the Hollywood after it shuttered last June. Months later, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Hollywood will once again operate as a cinema and also as a live performance venue. (Plans for the brew-and-view will go into effect once they obtain a liquor license.) It’s an inspiring success story, and one that Oakland could take into account the next time new business rolls into town. Then we could save all the drama for the “Gentlemen of Leisure.”

Here are some archival photographs of Oakland’s fave speakeasy in brighter days. I unearthed them at the Oakland History Room and found a lot of images by Vernon Sappers, Oakland’s own railway historian who wrote a book on the Key System Streetcars. When Sapper took these images, the 18 streetcar passed the Parkway on its hill-bound route.

"Construction of Parkway Theatre," Vernon Sappers (ca. 1925)
“Construction of Parkway Theatre” photo from the Vernon Sappers Collection (ca. 1925)

…Interesting to see a view of the Parkway in pre-Kragen times. The homes to the right of the construction site gave way to a co-op, which later gave way to the auto parts store chain.

"Construction of Parkway Theatre," Vernon Sappers Collection (ca. 1925)
“Construction of Parkway Theatre” photo from the Vernon Sappers Collection (ca. 1925)

…Here’s a view facing Park Blvd. and the Brooklyn neighborhood to the north.

Parkway Theatre's initial storefront, Vernon Sappers Collection
Parkway Theatre’s initial storefront, Vernon Sappers Collection

…The theater started out, an older resident told me, as an independent arts cinema.

"Parkway Theatre - Oakland," Gary L. Parks, spring 1986
Photo by Gary L. Parks, spring 1986

…Gotta love Oakland in the ’80s.

Photo by Mark Koehler (ca. 1980s)
Photo by Mark Koehler (ca. 1980s)

…The Parkway marquee here touches on themes of the present-day closure.

The Parkway this spring
The Parkway this spring

…Thank you to the Fischers for creating the dream, Viharo for stewarding it and to those who, in a campaign for the Parkways’ survival, showed their Oaktown love in reviving it.


The Glenview Neighborhood Association meeting came to order yesterday with a moment of silence. For a good few minutes the small, carpeted room at Presbyterian Church lay quiet for the police officers who died this year. Everyone in attendance—some 30 neighbors and Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente—received a blue ribbon to show their support.

In his briefing on the city’s affairs, Ignacio De La Fuente said that Oakland wants to provide its law enforcement with financial help. Some of the federal stimulus funneled to Oakland will also go to the beleaguered parks system. But there’s not a whole lot of money in the proverbial kitty these days. “The city of Oakland’s budget deficit is something like $85 million,” he said, which is a lot larger than earlier estimates. The enormity of this isn’t lost on De La Fuente, who came into office in 1992 during a recession. “I’ve seen $35 million in the red, sure, but this is the worst I’ve seen in 16 years in office.”

As De La Fuente elaborated on making city-wide cuts I noticed how spiffy he looked. His black-top, half-frame glasses and tailored, pin stripe suit gave him a sharp appearance. The majority of the group walked in wearing their fleece or loosened collared shirts. A couple wore scout badges. But among the workday weary, Ignacio appeared to have been spritzed with fresh rose water. His violet-colored tie shimmered as he fielded questions about the Glenview’s flower median. (Due to budget constraints, its drip water system will be dramatically reduced.) Of the city’s spending priorities, he said that the city has to focus on basic services. “I don’t think citizens have a clue as to how much resources it takes to water the city parks and maintain its lights.”

He also reiterated how the city has to weed out wasteful spending practices. Of a recent audit in the Public Works department, he said there were 200 suggestions for improvement. “We’re also one of the few cities whose citizens pay into city employee pensions,” he claimed. On the negotiating table, then, is a reduction in pay or a reduction of pensions. “We’re going to have to do less with more.”

Some expressed frustration at how cities across the country choose to prioritize spending. And De La Fuente shared these concerns and pointed to the present set of circumstances. Then he confessed, “I should tell you that tomorrow the Oakland Tribune will publish some things I said about our mayor. With all due respect, I think he’s done a poor job.”

It was hard not to imagine how Oakland would’ve fared if De La Fuente won the mayoral race. The cardboard flowers his campaign laid all over the city came down when Dellums won. A few remained interlaced in a chain link fence at the empty lot on Park Blvd. and Hampel St. For weeks after the election, their smiling yellow faces greeting casual carpool riders. These days, Oaklanders are getting ready to weather a new status quo.

rest in peace to the officers

who fell in pittsburgh, pennsylvania.

their memorial service will be held thursday,

in the neighborhood of oakland

not to be confused with the city

that lost four of its own a month ago.

to sciullo, mayhle, and kelly of the iron city


romans, dunakin, hege and sakai of the town:


here’s a rose from my garden.

you are missed.