OAKLAND -- Squeezed into a former windshield-making warehouse on the edge of Oakland's Uptown district, the New Parkway theater is more than a standard rerun of the once-popular, second-run movie house.

As envisioned by Moses Ceaser, a longtime fan of the defunct hotspot that drew crowds for $30 date nights of pizza, beer and a flick, the Parkway's reincarnation is more of a community gathering space than dingy hangout.

Opened a year ago, the New Parkway offers two theater spaces -- a movie lounge that recreates the same funky, living-room character of the old theater, and another with cabaret-style seating on two levels for watching live sports or other events. It also features a two-floor, 50-seat cafe for chowing down on upscale, often locally sourced diner fare while playing trivia, making crafts or participating in other themed evenings.

The facade of the New Parkway theater at 474 24th Street in Uptown is part of the fun vibe owners envisioned.
The facade of the New Parkway theater at 474 24th Street in Uptown is part of the fun vibe owners envisioned. ( J.M. Brown/For Bay Area News Gro )

The philosophy is simple: Have fun, don't spend a lot of money and feel welcome. Most second-run movies and documentaries cost $6 to $10, and sporting events are usually $5. Snacks range from about $4 for a slice of pizza to $8 to $9 for macaroni and cheese or a burger. All can be washed down with $5 beer or wine on tap.

"We are promoting a lot of things that are about community," said Ceaser, who is managing partner and general manager of the new venture. "I don't think we are planning to make a lot of money."

But, he added during a tour, "If we are doing right by our patrons, staff and planet, we will be financially successful."

The former Parkway located on Park Boulevard closed in 2009. There were several failed attempts to reopen it, including one by Ceaser, who said the renovations and startup costs at his new site on 24th Street cost $1.5 million -- a cost shared by 55 other investors.

The smallest of the two new theater spaces is a 125-seat lounge chock-full of broken-in furniture donated to the theater or discovered by Ceaser at a restaurant supply store or flea market. This includes the mustard-colored beauty shop chair with a hair dryer (unplugged), red leather chairs from Trader Vic's and a bright orange banquette.

The walls are painted with graffiti-style murals, and patrons order food and beverages directly from coffee tables using an order form and a call button for the server.

The other theater, a 147-seat venue, features chairs and tables on the first floor, while the multitiered balcony offers couches and comfortable chairs, many with side tables made of wood left over from the renovation.

"It speaks to our philosophy but also that we had to do it inexpensively," Ceaser said.

Oakland's former redevelopment agency has set aside funding for facade improvements, which Ceaser hopes to tap, and envisions a "metal skin" to resemble a curtain. There is a 300-space parking lot at 450 24th St. available to patrons on weekends and after 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Destiny Webster, of East Oakland, one of the theater managers, said the site, which is open seven days a week, is just what the neighborhood needed.

"What really drew me to working here is you could tell there was a sense of community that came out of the project," she said. "Communities like these need to exist in places like Oakland."

Andrew Jones, district service manager for the Lake Merritt Uptown District Association representing 240 property owners, said the theater will "fit right in" with the arts, entertainment and dining scene that has blossomed in recent years around the Telegraph and Broadway corridors north of downtown.

"It will be a very valuable piece for the branding of that area," he said.

Destiny Webster, activities coordinator at the New Parkway theater, talks with managing partner Moses Ceasar in the cafe area of the new Uptown Oakland
Destiny Webster, activities coordinator at the New Parkway theater, talks with managing partner Moses Ceasar in the cafe area of the new Uptown Oakland venue. ( J.M. Brown/For Bay Area News Gro )
IF YOU GO
What: New Parkway theater
Where: 474 24th St.,
Oakland
Information: www.thenewparkway.com or call
510-658-7900