The historic movie palaces of the 1930s have suffered untold indignities due to changes in our culture and media. The glorious Alameda Theatre, after closing in 1979, went on to incarnations as a roller rink and a gymnastics studio. Today, the theatre, rehabilitated by ARG, is showing films once again; as the focal point of Alameda’s Park Street Historic District it has catalyzed a renaissance of the area. Its soaring lobby serves as the entrance to both the historic theatre and the adjacent new multiplex and is a popular event venue.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The Theatre’s architect, Timothy Pflueger, was one of San Francisco’s foremost architects, also responsible for the Castro Theatre and The Paramount in Oakland.
ARG’s conservators analyzed the original decorative finishes, many of them overpainted, and worked with teams of craftsmen to restore the elaborate painted and metal leaf structures.
The painted stage curtain, carpeting, ceiling grilles, and most of the light fixtures are restored originals.
The ticket booth and concession area are new, designed by ARG to complement the Art Deco style of the theatre.
The structure of the concrete and hollow clay tile, notoriously unsafe seismically, were discreetly retrofitted.
The Alameda Theatre opened in 1932 with a showing of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and “Laurel and Hardy in The Chimp”.
The coffered ceiling of the lobby has three layers of decorative finishes. In the 1940s, the original gilded decoration at the coffers and the wall mural were painted over with a swan motif. The mural has now been uncovered and restored, and the coffer decoration was reproduced on canvas and installed over the existing finish layers, thereby protecting the original gilded and varnished layers below.
For a full list of honors received by the Alameda Theatre, please click HERE.
Photography by David Wakely