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Guide to the Paramount Theatre records, 1929-1999
BANC MSS 99/269 c  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Corporate History
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Paramount Theatre records,
    Date (inclusive): 1929-1999
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 99/269 c
    Creator: Paramount Theatre (Oakland, Calif.)
    Extent: Containers: 54 cartons, 1 box, 17 oversize boxes, 226 oversize folders, 6 oversize items, 4 v., 1 tube Linear feet: 101
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Provides a complete history of the venue from 1929-1999, with regular additions expected. The management, construction and restoration of the building are fully documented. The bulk of the collection includes detailed performance schedules and a large poster collection.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research, with the following exceptions:
    Tube 1 (original diagram of the marquee mosaic) and v.1 (plaster samples from the earthquake renovation) are extremely fragile and unavailable for use without prior written approval from the appropriate curator.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Paramount Theatre records, BANC MSS 99/269 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
    Videotapes/sound recordings have been transferred to the Microforms Collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Paramount Theatre Records were given to The Bancroft Library by Peter J. Botto, General Manager, on April 1, 1999, with additions made on May 15, 1999. Regular additions are expected.

    Corporate History

    Construction of the Paramount Theatre was begun by Paramount Publix Corporation, the exhibiting organization of Paramount Pictures, on December 12, 1930. Financial difficulties forced the sale of the uncompleted building to Fox-West Coast Theatres, who completed the theatre on December 16, 1931, and operated the facility until it closed for restoration on September 15, 1970.
    The architectural firm of J. R. Miller and T. L. Pflueger had overall responsibility for the construction of the Paramount, but Timothy L. Pflueger was primarily responsible for the design. Born in San Francisco in 1892, Pflueger studied architecture locally, at the Beaux Arts Institute of Design. He was hired by James R. Miller in 1910 and became a full partner in 1920. By 1930, when the Paramount Theatre was commissioned, Pflueger had become known for his avant garde designs and his appreciation of local artisans. The Paramount is one of the first Depression-era buildings to incorporate and integrate the work of numerous creative artists into its architecture. It is particularly noteworthy for its successful orchestration of the various artistic disciplines into an original and harmonious style, frequently described as "Moderne."
    After its initial glory in the 1930's, the auditorium suffered three decades of neglect and decline until its rescue by the Oakland Symphony, the City of Oakland and many private donations. The building was purchased by the Board of Directors of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association in 1972. An extensive restoration was completed in 1973 and the theatre was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in August of that year. In 1975, the City of Oakland assumed ownership from the Symphony Association. The Paramount Theatre became a California Registered Historic Landmark in 1976, and on May 5, 1977, was declared a National Historic Landmark.
    The Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989 forced the Paramount to begin an extensive renovation. Falling debris and cracked plaster required specialized clean up, and the box office and grille work required reconstruction. Most work was completed by 1996, and The Paramount Theatre of the Arts reopened and continues to be an entertainment center for downtown Oakland.

    Scope and Content

    The Paramount Theatre records provide a complete history of the venue from 1929 to 1999, with regular additions to the collection expected. The construction and restoration of the building are fully documented, as well as its management. The bulk of the collection consists of detailed performance schedules and a large poster collection.
    Records of the Paramount's construction includes a complete set of blue prints, original marquee designs, and correspondence which predates ground breaking. All restoration projects, capital improvements, and earthquake renovation done between 1973 and 1996 are documented in detail.
    Management records begin in 1971, when the building was purchased by the Oakland Symphony and the City of Oakland. These include Board of Director files, administrative records of the first Executive Director, Jack Bethard, and the General Manager files of Peter J. Botto, who also served as the General Contractor for the building renovation. The Public Relations files include newsletters, scrapbooks covering the history of the theatre from 1971 to 1990, and information regarding the California and National Landmark dedication ceremonies.
    The Performance Files illustrate most events which took place on the Paramount stage from 1931 through 1999, including a complete weekly movie schedule from December 1931 to April 1961; the schedule is maintained monthly after this date, until the Paramount closed for major restoration in September 1970. The bulk of the performance files document events scheduled after August 1973, including all movies and live performances sponsored by the Paramount, Oakland Symphony, Oakland Ballet, Jazzboree, and the Organ Pops series. Event posters accompany many of the performance files.