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Ray Chavez/staff 11/13/98 Tribune A benefit for Second Start Literacy will be held this Sunday at the Parkway Theater in Oakland.

The screen will go dark Sunday at the Parkway Speakeasy Theater — as famous for its eclectic films as for providing sofas for patrons to sit on while wathcing them, sipping beer and devouring pizza.

The popular two-story vintage movie house on Park Boulevard will close its doors for good, ending a 12-year run that has been credited with breathing new life into the neighborhood near Lake Merritt.

"We "... are deeply proud of the Parkway and will profoundly miss serving its community. Thank you for your patronage," said a tersely worded, unsigned e-mail Wednesday night that stunned patrons. Many suspected the e-mail was a hoax.

The operators, Kyle and Katherine Fischer, did not comment about their reasons for closing the Parkway, a decision that came as a surprise even to Will Viharo, the programming director.

"It's bad for Oakland," he said. "It's a tragedy for that community," he added, referring to the neighborhood east of Lake Merritt anchored by the Parkway's popularity.

The move does not affect the couple's Cerrito Speakeasy Theater in El Cerrito. Most of the Parkway's regular and special events will move to the 10070 San Pablo Ave. location, the e-mail said.

"We're not ending the party — we're just moving it to El Cerrito," Viharo said, adding that he has moved several special events to the Cerrito since it opened in November 2006. It is a restored vintage movie house that had been used as a furniture warehouse.


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The Fischers opened the Parkway in 1997, and it became the first "speak-easy" movie venue in California. They borrowed the idea of an underground speak-easy saloon and applied it to the restored movie theater at 1834 Park Blvd., where they served beer, wine, pizza and other pub-friendly food in a lounge setting.

Patrons could find everything from popular Hollywood hits to late-night Saturday screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," lesbian fashion events and the regular Sunday Salon — all in the comfort of sofas and armchairs.

"With a nudge or a push from the community, there was little programming the Parkway Theater would not try in order to better be a community center and a safe haven for diverse ideas," the e-mail said.

The couple also introduced weekly screenings called the Baby Brigade "for the shuttered and abandoned parents of newborns," as the duo put it. Baby Brigade nights ended at the Parkway in June but continue at the Cerrito.

The closing "Fight Night" bill includes "The Wrestler" at 5 p.m. followed at 8 p.m. by "Que Viva La Lucha," a documentary about the extreme Tijuana version of lucha libre, or Mexican wrestling. On stage will be Carne Cruda, the band that provided the soundtrack to the film and is releasing their album, "Oakland's Tight."

Tickets are $7, and the event is open to all. "Revolutionary Road" will begin 6 p.m. upstairs, followed at 8:45 p.m. by "Let the Right One In." For more information, go to www.speakeasytheaters.com.

Reach Angela Woodall at 510-208-6413 or awoodall@bayareanewsgroup.com.