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The Fox Oakland: A City Landmark Reborn

By Elisha Neubauer

A true piece of history, the Fox Oakland Theater has stood its ground through some heavy ups and downs. The theater originally opened in October of 1928 to grand reviews. Its stunning domed theater and opulent embellishments delighted and drew in crowds. The San Francisco Chronicle referred to the theater as "different, novel and mystic," while others insisted it possessed Indian or Moorish qualities. Unfortunately, financial turmoil took its toll on the beloved space and the theater closed its doors in 1965, following an unexpected decline in the movie business.

The theater remained largely unoccupied over the next decade. Narrowly escaping the wrecking ball on several occasions, the theater space still suffered the long term effects of vacancy: arson, roof leaks, decay, and graffiti. In 1978, the Fox Oakland managed to earn the title of city landmark and was auctioned off to local Piedmont residents, Erma and Mario DeLucchi, who intended to restore the theater and reopen. Misfortune struck the space again when Mario DeLucchi died shortly after acquiring the location. The project was never begun.

In 1996, Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris made a decision to purchase the neglected landmark from the DeLucchi family. With the help of local developer Phil Tagami, the Fox Oakland finally received the restoration it deserved. Tagami, whose parents had their first date at the theater, kept loyal to the original design- down to the horsehair plaster work that was used during the primary construction. The theater reopened its doors in February of 2009 and now offers a popular live music venue, a restaurant, and a tuition-free school of the arts.

Since its reopening, the Fox Oakland has continued to draw attention from mainstream artists, fans, and media alike. It has been named Best Venue and Best Cultural Improvement by East Bay Express in 2009, listed in the New York Times' 45 Places to Go in 2012, and featured in Oakland Magazine's Best of Oakland and The East Bay in 2013. Jill DiBartolomeo of the Fox Oakland explains that outpouring of interest in the theater stems not just from its history, but from what it offers today: intricate details, friendly staff, and impeccable sound.

Despite having scarcely escaped demolition on multiple occasions, the Fox Oakland Theater has survived and become a hub for entertainment and arts education in the Bay Area. The theater, still complete with its famed 90-year-old golden guardian statues on either side of the stage, has managed to live on to tell its tale another day.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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