.Best of East Bay 2023 – Everyday

Screen Time 

The New Parkway is the East Bay’s weirdest movie theater

The New Parkway, a colorful, mission-driven movie theater and pub in Oakland’s Uptown district, is deeply thoughtful about how it operates. The theater shares profits with its employees, highlights local businesses instead of selling pre-movie ads and donates to Bay Area nonprofits. 

Its kitchen’s full menu of food is brought to patrons at their seats with all-reusable dishware and napkins, making it, according to their website, “quite possibly the greenest movie theater in the world.” It’s also quite possibly the coziest—instead of filing into the usual monotony of red cinema seats, the audience sprawls across squashy couches, loveseats and vintage chairs of every hue. 

An eclectic line-up includes new releases, second-runs, cult classics and special events like trivia, bingo, karaoke and cartoons with all-you-can-eat cereal. In my experience, nearly any film is improved by the warmhearted weirdness of the New Parkway atmosphere, its local wine, beer and cider on-tap, and, most of all, the deep buckets of homestyle popcorn. 

Do not go to the New Parkway without boldly traversing the toppings rack, which has every popcorn garnish one can imagine and a few one probably can’t. There are over 40 options, which (no spoilers) I won’t list here.  

The New Parkway’s homey vibe creates a real feeling of camaraderie among the audience, as if everyone is in a big ol’ living room together. Expect laughter, cheers and gasps. With an engaged, participatory audience, the dynamics of a film are heightened—tense scenes feel tighter, twists hit harder, victories are more satisfying. 

During my last visit, one audience member burst into solo applause during a particularly joyful moment in John Wick: Chapter 4. The rest of us realized she had the right idea, and joined in.


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Sonya Bennett-Brandt
Sonya Bennett-Brandt writes about climate, conservation and the Bay Area.

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