AKA: Oaks Theater, North Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: David, William B., Architect (firm); Reid Brothers, Architects (firm); William B. David (architect); James William Reid (architect); Merritt Jonathan Reid (architect)

Dates: constructed 1924-1925

2 stories, total floor area: 21,578 sq. ft.

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1861 Solano Avenue
North Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94707

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The Oaks Theatre and its adjacent office building stood at 1861-1877 Solano Avenue.

Building History

The San Francisco architectural firm of the Reid Brothers designed this neighborhood movie theatre and an adjacent, two-floor office building. The theatre was leased to Blumenfeld Theaters, Incorporated, of San Francisco, CA. The Oaks opened on 09/15/1925. According to the authoritative Cinema Treasures.org web site, Blumenfeld, led by Joseph and Abe Blumenfeld, participated in the management of at least 57 theatres in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1949, the Blumenfelds had an office at 70 Eddy Street in San Francisco. (See Terry Ramsaye, International Motion Picture Almanac, 1949, [New York: Quigley Publishing Company, 1949], p. 434.)

The Renaissance Rialto Theaters leased the Oaks in 10/1994 and operated in until 2005. For five years between 2005 and 2010, the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Theaters Corporation managed the venue, but it vacated in 2010. Another entity, Merriment Media Private Limited of Delhi, India, exhibited Bollywood films during part of 2010, but they vacated it by December of that year. Six years later, the owner of the Oaks, Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services, put the building up for sale in May; it sold during that year for nearly its asking price of $4,250,000. According to an article in the blog, Berkeleyside.com, by Frances Dinkelspiel, "The building — with 1,000 seats, two screens, an ornate entry, ticket booth, concession stand and antique projector on display — also has five upstairs offices and five retail spaces along Solano Avenue. In addition, AT&T rents space on the building’s roof for cell antennas." (See Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside.com, "John Gordon, one of Berkeley’s largest real-estate players, puts Oaks Theatre up for sale," published 05/18/2017, accessed 01/02/2019.)

An indoor climbing gym, Touchstone Climbing, sought to use the building as an indoor rock climbing facility by 08/2017.

Building Notes

Many movie theatres of the 1910s and 1920s included attached office buildings to provide owners added office and retail storefront income. The Oaks had five storefronts opening onto the Solano Avenue commercial strip that stretched from Berkeley to Albany, CA. Four of the stores stood west of the theatre, one, east.


In 1940, Blumenfeld Theaters modernized the original "Moorish" Revival exterior, by removing many of its original ornamental details. The building took on a simplified Art Deco appearance. Architect William B. David supervised this renovation and also designed a new, cleaner marquee.

Owners of the Oaks Theatres divided its single auditorium into two screening rooms in 1973. It possesed 1,438 seats after the twinning.

According to the book Cinema Treasures: A New Look at Classic Movie Theaters by Ross Melnick and Andreas Fuchs: "Renaissance Rialto took over the Oaks in October 1994, bringing in chandeliers from the Fox Oakland and wood and etched-glass doors from the Garden Theater. The custom light fixtures along the walls were made from decorative pieces scavenged at the T & D (Turner and Dahnken) in downtown Oakland. In a most wonderful turn of the reel, some of the Oak's original chandeliers that [Renaissance Rialto owner Allen] Michaan had purchased in 1972 were returned to their rightful place." (See Ross Melnick and Andreas Fuchs, Cinema Treasures: A New Look at Classic Movie Theaters, [Saint Paul, MN: MBL Publishing Company, 2004], p. 105.)

The exterior of the Oaks was painted in 2014.

Berkeley Historical Landmark (Listed 2006-02-02): 285

PCAD id: 17535