August Is Pay What You Want Month At Oakland Movie Theater

To thank moviegoers for their support, patrons of a movie theater in Oakland will be able to pay whatever amount they want this month as part of a program that will also benefit local nonprofits, the theater’s general manager said.

The New Parkway Theater, located at 474 24th St., is kicking off Karma Cinema Month from today through the end of August, general manager J Moses Ceaser said.

The New Parkway opened late last year and sells beer, wine, pizza and other meals that can be taken into the theater during a movie.

Although under different management, the theater is similar in spirit to the Parkway Speakeasy Theater, which was at a different location and closed in 2009 because of financial difficulties.

To thank all of the community members who fought for a new theater, The New Parkway will allow patrons to pay whatever they want, whether it’s nothing or an amount well above the normal price of a movie ticket, Ceaser said.

“We’ll get everything across the range,” he said. “But if someone gives nothing, they’re still going to get the same phenomenal treatment as someone who donates $100.”

Theater staff will also be giving out various freebies to moviegoers this month as thanks for their support, Ceaser said.

“There are hundreds if not thousands of people who helped get the theater open,” he said. “The theater is only open right now because of their generosity.”

To increase its commitment to the community, the theater is donating 30 percent of its ticket sales in August to four local nonprofits—Alameda County Community Food Bank, College Track, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Hopalong Animal Rescue.

Ceaser said the idea for Karma Cinema Month came from his experience volunteering at Karma Kitchen, a restaurant in Berkeley that allowed customers to pay in advance for a future customer’s meal.

“As you come through the door, you’re told by the greeter that your meal is paid for, and at the end you would have the opportunity to leave a donation for future diners,” he said. “It was totally based on trust and generosity.”

Ceaser and other theater staff were getting ready this afternoon for the first movie of the month, which was set to start at 6:30 p.m.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun with it,” he said.

The New Parkway shows a mix of newer movies, older ones like “Fight Club,” which will be shown at the theater tonight, and off-beat fare like a sing-along to R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet,” which will be featured there Saturday night.

More information about Karma Cinema Month and a list of show times can be found on the theater’s website at

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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