AKA: Roxie Theatre, Oakland, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Heyer, Charles, Jr., Building Contractor (firm); Marten, A.F., Interior Designer (firm); Weeks and Day, Architects (firm); William Peyton Day (structural engineer); Charles Heyer Jr. (building contractor); A. F. Marten (interior designer); Charles Peter Weeks (architect)

Dates: constructed 1928

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517 17th Street
Oakland, CA 94612

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This 1-screen movie house in Oakland, CA, accommodated 1075 customers and opened on 10/08/1928. For most of its life, it was known as the "Roxie Theatre." The Roxie showed first-run motion pictures from 1930 until the early 1989s. Its interior was gutted in to create office space.

Building History

The "Dufwin" was a portmanteau of the names of the owner Henry Duffy (1890-1961), a theater producer, and his second wife, Dale Winter(1890-1985), an actress in his troupe. At one time, Duffy leased nine theatres in which his Henry Duffy Players would stage performances.For its first two years of operation, the Dufwin hosted Duffy's company. The first performance of "In Love with Love" occurred on Monday, 10/08/1928. While the names of Duffy and Winter graced the exterior, the owner was a holding company called "Income Properties Company of California, Incorporated." This firm was headquartered in Oakland, in 1930, with an address of 364 14th Street. It is not clear whether Duffy and Winter owned any part of this ownership entity. (For more on Duffy, see Henry "Terry" Duffy, [Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016].)

The Oakland Tribune described the theatre at its grand opening using an inordinate number of prepositional phrases: "Situated at an advantageous spot on Seventeenth street, near Telegraph avenue, the new Dufwin is one of the finest theaters in the country. Its exterior is of stone and is of Grecian design with modern adaptations. A feature of the front is the decorative metal paneling, while a marquee extends over the sidewalk. Mahogany doors lead from the outside in the foyer with the walls in soapstone and with an arched ceiling of Pomepeiian red, blue and green and with a plaster frieze in bright colors. The foyer will serve as the promenade between acts and is decorated in rose-ivory with a red and black carpet and with furniture of handsome carved walnut. The auditorium has the sides paneled in Philippine mahogany, while a many-paneled ceiling, in pastel shades and rose-ivory walls with two proscenium balconies in the same pastel shades and with narrow pilasters in gold and silver, give an air of cheerfulness. One of the features of the Dufwin is the lounge and smoking room for ladies and gentlemen, reached by stairs leading down from either end of the foyer. The furnishings in this are of handsome walnut and at either end the ladies' drawing rooms and the men's room. To the A.F. Marten company of San Francisco much credit is due for the decorations throughout." (See "Dufwin Home Is Completed on 17th St.," Oakland Tribune, 10/07/1928, p. 34.)

During the Depression, Duffy and Winter encountered serious financial problems, forcing their acting company and theatre management firm to fail. Management of the Dufwin changed hands, and after the advent of talkies, the theatre became refocused to show films. It was renamed the "Roxie Theatre," and reopened on Friday,12/05/1930, with Florence Ziegfeld's production, "Whoopee," starring Eddie Cantor. The Oakland Tribune reported: "For the past two weeks electricians and carpenters had been converting this legitimate theater into a talkie palace. The new Roxie sign will blaze forth a greeting on Friday night heralding the opening, and numerous feature stunts have been planned." (See "Roxie theater Will Be Opened with Whoopee," Oakland Tribune, 12/05/1930, p. 34.)

The accomplished San Francisco architectural firm of Weeks and Day worked with contractor, Charles Heyer, Jr., to build the theatre. (See "Dufwin Home Is Completed on 17th St.," Oakland Tribune, 10/07/1928, p. AM.)


Changes occurred on the interior in 1930, when the auditorium was wired with speakers for exhibiting films.

Drastic changes happened after the property ended showing first-run films in 1983. The auditorium was gutted, and renovated to create office space. Additional office space was added above the theatre's former auditorium, sheathed in a reflective-glass skin.

PCAD id: 4184