Oakland News Now – The Grand Lake Theater Oakland, located at the corner of Grand Avenue and Lake Park Avenue, near Lake Merritt, has been under the care of its longtime leaseholder Allen Michaan, who many see as its owner, since 1979. The truth is, Allen owned the “leasehold”, to the Grand Lake Theater Oakland, but not the building itself.
All of that changed on Thursday, when Allen consummated a deal offer to him to purchase the theater from its nine-member group of owners for $3.7 million. Allen was operating the theater under a 95-year-lease that was to end in 2023. Allen was always interested in owning the Grand Lake Theater, and expressed that desire to the lawyer for the families of Louis Kaliski and Abraham C. Karski, who built the movie house. The trouble for Allen was that he had to deal with nine people! So the sale was also all the better to avoid having to write nine checks to nine different people each month – a task that was more complicated than it might sound like, at first.
As to the possibility that Allen may change the Grand Lake Theater format, forget it – he’s having too much fun. “We have 2001 in 70mm tonight and Saturday night,” Allen said, “and then we have the Rocky Horror Picture Show at Midnight tonight and Saturday night, only.”
I’ve known Allen Michaan since, oh we’re not sure, but I would say 1995, so I invited him to come on to my Zennie62 on YouTube Livestream Show and talk about the deal.
We really were supposed to chat for 15 minutes, but Allen and I wound up clocking in a 50 minute conversation that could have gone on for two hours, and took in everything from how three Oakland-related movies – Black Panther, Blindpotting, and Sorry To Bother You – made the Grand Lake a super success, to how the Grand Lake survived digital media culture, to how excited Allen is to have DC Entertainment’s tentpole superhero movie Aquaman come to the Grand Lake this fall, to our favorite subject which is politics, and more specifically Donald Trump, Oakland issues like gentrification, and election voting fraud. (I considered running for Mayor of Oakland last fall and called Allen to talk about my plan; he was quick to offer his support and fund-raising ability. But my need to be in Georgia for my Mom took the lead over that personal ambition to help Oakland rediscover its soul.)
Here are some highlights:
On how he almost redeveloped the Fox Theater in Uptown Oakland:
In 1996, Allen Michaan had a brilliant plan for the rehabilitation of the Fox Theater and an operations plan for both the Fox Theater and the Paramount Theater, but Elihu Harris, then the Mayor of Oakland (and my boss as I was his economic advisor) did not support it (Eventually, Oakland Developer Phil Tagami would be hired by the City of Oakland as fee developer of the Fox Theater). “What success I drew from that,” Allen said, “was that I brought attention to the dilapidated Fox…and kept it from being demolished.” Eventually, the Oakland Redevelopment Agency would secure the services of California Capital Investment Group Managing Partner Phil Tagami as developer consultant to rebuild the Fox Theater. Today, it is one of the premier event venues in America.
On three Oakland-related movies – Black Panther, Blindpotting, and Sorry To Bother You:
Allen Michaan said that the three films “were the most successful at the Grand Lake of any theater in the nation,” and attributed that to the “local (Oakland) community coming out and really supporting those films.” Allen also heaps praise on Black Panther Director Ryan Coogler for being a fan of the Grand Lake Theater and taking time to mention it in press conferences he attends around the country. (It was Michaan and his friend and mine now-former Telluride Film Festival Co-Director Gary Meyer who essentially gave Googler a party at the Grand Lake to introduce the modern classic movie Fruitvale Station, a film about the events leading up to the BART Police murder of Oscar Grant.)
On Donald Trump And The Secret Marquee Message he and his staff have ready:
Since just after the horrible events of September 11th 2001, Allen has taken up the habit of posting political messages on the marquee of the Grand Lake, and has no plans to stop doing that. He believes “something worse” than the impeachment of Donald Trump is coming up, and soon. “We have a special message to put on the marquee when that happens. I’m not going to say what it is.”
Please watch, especially if you’re new to Oakland and want a bit of a history lesson and introduction to one of the great custodians of Oakland’s civic culture.
Oh, I forgot: Allen wants you to come to see 2001: A Space Odessey and also the Rocky Horror Picture Show Saturday night, at midnight, and see the trailer for Aquaman, so here it is:
Oakland News Now Note: this post demonstrates the full and live operation of the latest version of an experimental mobile media video-blogging system network that’s part of a new approach to the production of media. The uploaded video is from a vlogger with the Zennie62 onYouTube Partner Channel, then uploaded to and formatted automatically at the Oakland News Now site and social media pages. The objective is real-time on the scene reporting of news, interviews, observations, and happenings anywhere in the World and within seconds and not hours. We are constantly working to improve the system network coding and also seek interested content and media technology partners.