It's rare that business openings are met with the kind of rabid excitement and widespread speculation typically reserved for rock concerts or a new iPhone version, but then again, it's also rare that a business quite like the New Parkway comes along.
Perhaps no one knows this better than J. Moses Ceaser. He vividly remembers the first time he went to the theater's forebear, a beloved lounge-style movie theater in Oakland's Eastlake district. "I left with my eyes wide open and my mouth agape," he recalled, now more than a decade later. "Here's this quirky space, this community space, and it offers lots of things people aren't getting in other places. I remember being blown away." For seven or eight years, he said, the Parkway Speakeasy was the only movie theater he went to. And then, in 2009, when it suddenly closed, he immediately started plotting its resurrection. Now, after two and a half years, several false starts, and plenty of fourteen-hour days, his dream — and that of the thousands of people who donated time and money to the cause of resurrecting the Parkway — is about to be realized, in a concrete warehouse (474 24th St., Oakland) on a quiet street in Koreatown-Northgate, blocks from a revitalized Uptown. The New Parkway will offer two screening rooms with seating for about 270 people on loveseats, couches, and the sorts of nontraditional theater furniture that old Parkway patrons are familiar with. Also like the old theater, it'll sell beer and wine plus pizza made on site.
The theater doesn't actually reopen for a few weeks, but on Wednesday, October 24, Ceaser and the community present an official coming-out with 24th on 24th: a celebration of the work Ceaser and his volunteers have put into the place, as well as the public's first real chance to explore the new space. Beyond that, it's also a celebration of the Parkway's new neighborhood. Unlike many of the blocks surrounding it, 24th doesn't get much foot traffic, and many of its businesses fly under the radar. According to Ceaser, his new neighbors have been very supportive of the project, so 24th on 24th is as much about honoring the block as it is the theater itself: Six businesses on 24th Street between Broadway and Telegraph will offer food for sale and intimate screenings of a selection of films curated by Will "the Thrill" Viharo, who booked the old Parkway and is involved with the new one as well (pick up a program at the New Parkway for a schedule and map of participating businesses). By the sound of it, the whole thing will be more like a block party than a typical business ribbon-cutting.
It's all of a piece with Ceaser's ethos, in general. The original Parkway was a community space, after all, and the new one will incorporate all kinds of touches in that vein: The walls are covered in murals and graffiti made by area artists, the building's railings were made by a local artisan from recycled wine-barrel bands, the tables will feature artworks from Creative Growth embedded in resin. As for the official opening date, Ceaser estimates it'll be sometime next month. After this long, a little more anticipation won't hurt. 6 p.m., free. TheNewParkway.com
Update:A previous version of thsi story incorrectly stated that the food at 24th on 24th will be free. It will not.