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Paramount Theatre – Marshall, TX

February 12, 2014
View of the auditorium from the main level.

View of the auditorium from the main level.

Delayed and over budget, the Paramount Theatre in Marshall, Texas opened on March 31, 1930. The opening was the first event in what the city of Marshall dubbed “Program of Progress” month. The East Texas Theatre Company, Inc. commissioned Emil Weil, Inc., an architecture firm based in New Orleans, to design the 1,500 seat atmospheric theater.

The auditorium is currently used for storage.

The auditorium is currently used for storage.

On opening day the front windows were decorated with telegrams from prominent movies stars congratulating the theater on the opening. The first feature was “Young Eagles,” starring Buddy Rogers and Jean Arthur, and “Brats,” a Laurel and Hardy comedy short. Live acts, including Rajah Vogi, an East Indian hypnotist, played at the theater during its early years.

Sunlight pours in through holes in the ceiling, due to years of water damage.

Sunlight pours in through holes in the ceiling due to years of water damage.

The Paramount would play a small role in the American Civil Rights Movement by helping to inspire James L. Farmer, Jr., a civil rights activist, to form the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942. Farmer, who was born and raised in Marshall, said that the humiliation of using the segregated entrance and sitting in the balcony were some of the things that inspired him. In 1950, W. L. Gelling, the manager of the Paramount, booked the movie “Pinky” to show in February. “Pinky,” a film about an interracial romance, was banned by the city of Marshall due to its subject matter. Gelling was fined and convicted for showing the film. He appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who overturned it.

The Paramount was segregated for most of it's time as a theater. African-American patrons were forced to use a separate entrance and could only sit in the balcony.

The Paramount was segregated for most of its time as a theater. Black patrons were forced to use a separate entrance and could only sit in the balcony.

The Paramount closed as a movie theater in the 1970s, and was turned into a western themed dinner theater. The seats on the main level were replaced by a dance floor. After the themed theater closed, the building was purchased in 1986 by Sky Spencer, who intended to turn it into a recording studio. Spencer gradually began to make alterations to the theater, but was unable to complete them and the recording studio never opened. After owning the theater for over two decades, Spencer unsuccessfully tried to sell the Paramount via eBay in 2007. It is still for sale.

The remains of the dance floor that was installed when the building was used as a dinner theater.

The remains of the dance floor that was installed when the building was used as a dinner theater.

Selected prints from this post can be purchased at: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/prints

The theater's proscenium arch.

The theater’s proscenium arch.

Exit, stage left.

Exit, stage left.

View of the auditorium from the balcony.

View of the auditorium from the balcony.

A close up of some of the surviving theater details.

A closer view of some of the surviving theater details.

The original marquee is still on the front of the building.

The original marquee is still on the front of the building.

The lobby was converted by Spencer to look like an office entrance.

The lobby was converted by Spencer to look like an office entrance.

The entrance to the Paramount Theatre.

The original estimated cost to build the theater was $150,000. By the time it opened the total cost was $250,000. When adjusted for inflation the cost today would be $3,396,507.

© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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70 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2014 8:27 am

    Wonderful post and great series of photographs. The one where the light comes through the ceiling is particularly good.

    • February 12, 2014 11:23 pm

      Thanks Victor. The sunbeams made this place a pain to photograph, but I think I managed to get some nice ones.

  2. February 12, 2014 8:30 am

    I love your work! It brings us an entirely unique perspective of these once grand structures. I’m thoroughly enjoying your posts! Cher xo

  3. Steve Wienrib permalink
    February 12, 2014 6:59 pm

    Hi. Matt

    You always make my day when you post.

    thanks

  4. February 12, 2014 11:17 pm

    Wow, what a treasure of an old building! So sad to see it in ruins.

    Lovely photos. You really capture the location. Love it.
    <3 Jules

    • February 12, 2014 11:24 pm

      Thanks Jules. It’s for sale now, so hopefully someone will buy it and restore it before it’s too late.

      • February 12, 2014 11:25 pm

        Oooo, wouldn’t that be divine? Marshall is such a neat town too! Of course all towns like that in Texas tend to be!!

      • February 12, 2014 11:42 pm

        I definitely agree, and nothing revitalizes a downtown like a restored, functioning theater.

  5. February 13, 2014 11:01 pm

    Sometimes the ruins themselves are beautiful. I think that’s true in this case. Would never have guessed that a theater like this would be built in Texas! (and I say that as someone who is from Texas).

  6. February 14, 2014 6:33 pm

    I would encourage you to check out the Lincoln Theater in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

  7. February 15, 2014 10:53 pm

    Wow. Such beautiful pictures! Sad to see that it went to ruin, but on the other hand they add so much personality. I especially love the third and fourth pictures.

  8. March 4, 2014 5:35 pm

    Reblogged this on Illicit By Nature.

  9. March 4, 2014 5:50 pm

    A blast from the past. Thank you.

  10. March 4, 2014 6:14 pm

    What a shame it’s been left abandoned and decayed like this. I hate to see history go this way.. Your photos are phenominal..

  11. March 4, 2014 6:42 pm

    We have a theater in my home town that almost ended up like one of these. It would have had it not been for all the people who raised money to save it. I never understood why they sank so much cash into a building with no parking, but at least it’s not another abandoned building downtown.

    • March 5, 2014 4:31 pm

      Parking is actually a very big reason why these theaters remain abandoned. Some cities have had to give away nearby vacant lots for parking as incentive to restore their local theater.

  12. March 4, 2014 10:11 pm

    I bet a building like that has had a few ghost hunters visit it.

  13. March 4, 2014 10:39 pm

    Reblogged this on I worship irony and commented:
    Recording arts friends—Lets buy it on Ebay! They’ve already started renovating into a recording studio.

  14. March 4, 2014 11:37 pm

    Reblogged this on dominicspoweryoga and commented:
    Great history piece.

  15. March 5, 2014 12:00 am

    Wow, these are some amazing pics!

  16. March 5, 2014 12:53 am

    Reblogged this on My OBT and commented:
    OBT (One Borrowed Thing). You know how I love artful decrepitude, and this post by blogger After the Final Curtain is exceptionally beautiful. The tattier a building is, the more I want to love it and hug it and call it home, especially theaters.

  17. March 5, 2014 2:03 am

    Reblogged this on Homie Williams..

  18. March 5, 2014 2:17 am

    I really like the way you write…keep going… visit mine… http://mindtechnorms.wordpress.com

  19. March 5, 2014 2:17 am

    So sad to see this in ruins! You have an amazing way of capturing this!

  20. March 5, 2014 3:02 am

    nice pic…

  21. March 5, 2014 3:09 am

    amazing…

  22. March 5, 2014 3:38 am

    Too bad. Such iconic structures ought to be put to better use by subsequent generations. Losing the theatre would be losing a piece of history

    • March 5, 2014 4:29 pm

      I agree. I hope the city of Marshall, TX feels the same.

  23. March 5, 2014 5:50 am

    Very interesting read and loved the photographs. Thank you!

  24. March 5, 2014 6:16 am

    Reblogged this on Warna Langit and commented:
    Nice!

  25. March 5, 2014 9:55 am

    Wow

  26. March 5, 2014 11:26 am

    This is a really interesting post, and the pictures just emphasize how haunting it all feels. I love it

  27. March 5, 2014 11:29 am

    Great post!

  28. Daniel permalink
    March 5, 2014 11:46 am

    Wow thanks for share this information!!

    http://architectureanddesgnpnv.com/

  29. March 5, 2014 12:22 pm

    Reblogged this on Gypsy Living Traveling In Style and commented:
    The Grand Decay-Serafini Amelia

  30. March 5, 2014 12:23 pm

    The Grand Decay-Serafini Amelia

  31. March 5, 2014 1:10 pm

    Nice place

  32. March 5, 2014 1:50 pm

    Reblogged this on Nicole's Sketchy Artist Blog and commented:
    Taking a minute out of my day here to mention this awesome blog that’s featured on WordPress today.
    This is the first time I’ve used the reblog button since moving my blog to WordPress so I hope I’m doing this right…
    But can you say WOW!! The stories of the abandoned theaters in the days of their youth and what they’ve been through since then create movies in your mind of the excitement that used to buzz through the grand spaces, paired with the gorgeous photography of the complete abandonment and neglect of these old theaters.
    It’s heart wrenching yet beautiful. It’s moving in a way that proves it is successful art.
    I feel empathy for the theaters because they parallel the truth of my own life, all life, and everything in life. Destined to age, there is no escape.
    Well done Matthew Lambros; After the Final Curtain. Amazing.

  33. March 5, 2014 1:59 pm

    Make the newscasters go there.

  34. March 5, 2014 2:47 pm

    It is such a shame how people can just let such a beautiful building with such rich history go! We should take care of such places so we can continue enjoying their history and beauty for years to come.

  35. March 5, 2014 3:22 pm

    Very sad indeed to see the “antiquity” gone from our landscape. I’m sure there were many a memory forged there.
    They can take away the materials, but not the memories or the stories that can be handed down.

  36. March 5, 2014 4:22 pm

    I just found this and saw that Young Eagles was the first film. I actually met Buddy Rogers in the Palm Springs area when he was 84. Very nice man. He had created a Humanitarian Award Dinner and was a wonderful giver to charities. He was quite the ladies man in his younger days from what I hear.

  37. March 5, 2014 4:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Flying Tiger Comics.

  38. March 5, 2014 5:29 pm

    The light penetrating is wonderful. There can be such beauty in decay.

  39. Rayray permalink
    March 5, 2014 9:54 pm

    its sad to see once a landmark but now end up in this state. lots of buildings out there deserve an extra look once in a while, to remind us of memories we had with them before

  40. March 5, 2014 11:51 pm

    Reblogged this on james23616.

  41. March 6, 2014 2:31 am

    Lets make some renovation!

  42. March 6, 2014 4:23 am

    Very nice!

  43. March 6, 2014 7:44 am

    Reblogged this on MyCanUsa and commented:
    Wenn der letzte Vorhang gefallen ist. Ein toller Bericht über ein altes Kino in Marshall Texas und wie es heute aussieht.

  44. March 6, 2014 2:13 pm

    It’s so sad to see a beautiful, historic theater in shambles. II hope that someone is able to purchase and restore this building, even though it would be a lot of work.

    Your photographs are incredible and really show how there is some beauty left in this venue. Great job.

    • March 6, 2014 3:10 pm

      Amanda – I hope so too. When I was photographing the Paramount, the owner was showing the theater to a prospective buyer. I don’t know if they ended up buying it, but assume they didn’t since it wasn’t in the papers anywhere.

      • March 6, 2014 3:17 pm

        I wish I could buy old buildings like that around where I live and restore them to their former beautiful glory, maybe someday if I ever finish and hit it big with my novels.

        Do you photograph old buildings like this often?

      • March 6, 2014 3:34 pm

        Sounds like a good plan. Hope it comes true!

        Yes, so much so that I have a blog dedicated to it. I’ve been to 62 abandoned theaters so far, and I’ve lost track of the other kinds of abandoned buildings I’ve explored.

      • March 6, 2014 3:36 pm

        I will have to check out more of your blog posts and photographs. Abandoned buildings (or just old and empty buildings) have so much beauty left to them.

  45. March 7, 2014 5:43 am

    oh God…

  46. marycheshier permalink
    March 7, 2014 1:42 pm

    :-( I am so sad to see the Paramount Theatre in such ruin. Thank you for the amazing post and read!

  47. marycheshier permalink
    March 7, 2014 1:42 pm

    Reblogged this on How 2 Be Green and commented:
    Sad to see the Paramount Theatre in such ruin

  48. March 10, 2014 12:25 am

    Reblogged this on ZILLAS NETWORK.

  49. March 10, 2014 2:47 pm

    Wonderful pictures! I love photography of abandoned buildings and towns. It’s fascinating and sad all at the same time to look at something that was once full of life and now slowly decays.

  50. March 11, 2014 6:06 am

    It’s sad how buildings that were once so popular are left to ruin. We had a theatre that stood empty for decades only to become a nightclub/bar for a decade and now it stands empty again and for sale. The other theatre that was newer was a wine bar and now is a convenience store. Sad times…

  51. March 11, 2014 12:24 pm

    This is just a shame. Can anything be done to restore this building to its original fervor?

    • March 11, 2014 12:38 pm

      I was actually just talking to someone who specializes in theater restoration about this theater. He said that it would be hard because of the holes in the ceiling, but that it could be done. Someone would have to buy the theater for that to be possible.

  52. March 11, 2014 7:11 pm

    I love the images and the information. I would just love to photograph there. Simply breath taking.

  53. March 12, 2014 2:46 pm

    These are gorgeous! have you done any shots in the evening?

  54. March 18, 2014 12:10 pm

    Wonderful shot, looks almost extraterrestrial

  55. March 27, 2014 2:49 am

    Beautiful photographs from a young ruin. Thanks.

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