Claremont Theatre (1914–29)
The Claremont Theatre, which was known as the LD Purdy Theater for the first two years of operation, was at 5110 Telegraph Ave. between Claremont Ave. and 51st St. The theater was designed in 1913 by architect Alfred W. Smith for “property owner Francisco (Frank) Armanino, a local wine and liquor dealer.” 1 Samuel A. Perlin took over the theater in 1922. 2,3
The building wasn’t originally on the corner; a later widening of 51st made it so. Overhauled in 1927, this theater closed only 2 years later, a casualty of the Depression.
Tower Theatre (1939–76)
In 1939, the long-vacant, now-remodeled Claremont was reopened as the Tower Theatre. “Oakland’s Fine Arts Theatre” showed foreign and “art” films (including the first film to receive an X rating, 1968’s Birds in Peru)1. In the 1950s, like so many cinemas after the rise of TV, the Tower began a gradual decline, eventually favoring R- (and finally X-)rated films.
Pussycat Theater (1977–89)
Not to be confused with the Regent Theatre at 1118 Broadway, which had also became a Pussycat theater a few years earlier.
In 1976, the Pussycat adult theater chain took over, rebranding the building as the Pussycat Theater. Despite the considerable appeal of Ginger Lynn and Traci Lords on the big screen ;^), such an establishment seemed markedly out of character for the neighborhood; locals protested regularly until the 1989 earthquake settled the issue. The building’s empty shell—like so much of post-1989 Oakland!—then sat for nearly a decade, until a 1998 fire compelled the City to raze it. (Theatres of Oakland notes that, if not for the earthquake, the rise of VCRs would likely soon have killed it anyway.)
Subsequently devising a suitable use for the property has proven a challenge, due to the density of the surrounding area, the lot’s odd shape and smallish size … and the fact that Temescal Creek runs directly beneath it!
The lot remained vacant through 2015, then was shortly used for a urban farm.
In 2018 construction began on 5110 Telegraph Ave, a 204 unit mixed-use development with a rooftop farm. The new building covers the entire block except for the existing Claremont Tower Apartments. Construction completed in 2020.5
Links and References
- Theatres of Oakland Jack Tillmany and Jennifer Dowling, Arcadia Publishing
- New Claremont Theater Will Be Opened to Public Tonight Oakland Tribune September 25, 1922
- Claremont Has New Proprietor Oakland Tribune February 13, 1922
- ohrphoto.oaktheaters.007.jpg Oakland History Center, Oakland Public Library
- ohrphoto.oaktheaters.050 Oakland History Center, Oakland Public Library