Keeping Hope Alive to Get Beer and Movies Back Together

The closure of a popular movie theater in Oakland last month has community members getting together to figure out how to fill the hole it left  in the neighborhood.
The Parkway Speakeasy Theater, located just east of Lake Merritt at 1834 Park Blvd., claimed to be the first theater in California to offer  food, beer and wine service in a lounge-style movie theater.

The theater's eclectic movies and events attracted a variety of customers, many of whom were shocked when it was announced that the theater  would close its doors for good on March 22.

Kyle Fischer, one of the Parkway's owners, said in a video posted on the theater's Web site that "the Parkway's been having difficulties for  the past couple years. The recession hasn't helped, but we probably  overextended ourselves a bit."

Members of the community have quickly mobilized in response to the theater's closure, meeting with a city councilwoman and creating a Web site,, about the theater.

Peter Prato, a spokesman for the group that made the Web site, said "it seems like right now the goal is to get a theater similar in nature  up and running in that space."

Prato, who lives a couple blocks away from the site of the former theater, said "it was loved. It's one of the reasons I moved to this  neighborhood, and it was very reflective of the type of community that we  live in."

The group met on March 29 with Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, whose District 2 was home to the theater, and another meeting is scheduled for  Wednesday.

Kernighan said the group "is doing some thinking and brainstorming about what they'd like to see there. I listened to them and told them that  basically whatever goes in there has to be economically viable."

Kernighan said she also talked to the owner of the building, who is "looking for new businesspeople that can run a new business there.  Hopefully it's similar (to the Parkway), and I'm encouraging any interested  people who run a business to contact the owners."

Prato said the hunger for a new theater in the area has been apparent online, where along with the Web site, the group  has created a Facebook group that has more than 6,400 members.

"I'm not surprised that there were a lot of people that cared, but I was surprised to see it went beyond the local community," Prato said,  adding that people from throughout the state and country have expressed  support for their effort.

Prato said the closing of the theater has ultimately brought the neighborhood closer together.

"I've formed some wonderful relationships with some of my neighbors, people I had never met before this," he said. "That's something  that has surprised me, the level of commitment and organizing people have put  into this."

The owners of the Parkway have a second theater, the Cerrito Speakeasy Theater, which remains open for business in El Cerrito. Information  about both theaters can be found at

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