The Paramount is one of the 24 theaters in my new book “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater.” Find out more here.
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.
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.
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 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. The building was sold in 2015, the new owners intend to renovate and reopen the theater as a live performance space.
Selected prints from this post can be purchased at: http://www.afterthefinalcurtainprints.com/
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