1961, courtesy Chris Treadway

The Moulin Rouge Theatre was originally opened as the Gem Theatre in 1908 at 485-487 - 8th Street. In 1932 it was remodeled and reopened as the Moulin Rouge. 4 Later (c.1940) it started showing adult films, and was in operation until the 1970s. 1

It had a neon sign with a red windmill ('moulin rouge') where the blades turned. The two-story building that formerly held the theater was torn down and replaced with a five-story commercial condominium building also called the Gem Building.

The Gem Theatre was first run by Allen E. King, who also ran the Lincoln Theater. King died January 2, 1942. 3 By that point the theater was already showing risque films (by 1930s-40s standards), such as Highway Hell, as well as doing stage shows.

At some point later the theater was owned by former policeman Robert Lewis. 1


In 1909, a performer at the Gem, the "Australian Wild Girl" eloped with an employee of the theater, Leo Osborne. The manager was S. A. Woods, and he was particularly upset because the girl was under contract, and the couple had stolen his prized snake collection. 6

In 1911, there was a fire at the Gem Theatre which led to city officials calling for inspections and improvements at all the theaters in Oakland. 5

c.1976 7

Links and References

1940 ad from Oakland Tribune

  1. Moulin Rouge Theatre on CinemaTreasures.org
  2. Stepping into the Past: A Walking Tour of West Oakland Circa 1940 Wear Your Voice
  3. Theater Operator of Oakland Dies Oakland Tribune January 2, 1942
  4. Theatres of Oakland by Jack Tillamy and Jennifer Dowling
  5. Picture Shows to be Investigated San Francisco Call September 1, 1911
  6. 'Wild Girl' Elopes and Takes Snakes San Francisco Call November 10, 1908
  7. ohrphoto.oaktheaters.030 Oakland History Center, Oakland Public Library