The Paramount is one of the 22 theaters in my new book “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater.” Find out more here.
The Liberty Theatre opened on February 11, 1918 in Youngstown, Ohio. It was designed by architect C. Howard Crane, later known for designing the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. The 1,800 seat Liberty opened as a vaudeville theater, and was managed by C.W. Diebel. Diebel’s father had built a theater on the same lot as the Liberty, but it was demolished to make way for what would become the Paramount Theatre. According to an account in the Motion Picture News, the theater cost $500,000 to build (or $8.8 million when adjusted for inflation.)
The main level of the Paramount Theatre.
The exterior of the building was constructed with white glazed terra cotta, and the interior was decorated in the Adamesque style. Due to the Liberty’s wartime construction, it was very difficult to get the steel required for the framework. In 1929 the Liberty was purchased by Paramount Pictures and renamed the Paramount Theatre. Paramount Pictures spent $200,000 modernizing the building and installing a sound system so the theater could show sound films (or ”talkies”). The Paramount thrived for more than 50 years before closing in 1976. The theater reopened for two days in late 1984 to host “Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. Steel Mill Movie Day.” People were given a short brief on the current state of the steel industry, a tour of the theater, and shown a film about the mill.
In April 2006 Grande Venues, Inc. purchased the Paramount. They planned to reuse it by adding a dance hall on the main floor and a one- or two-screen movie theater in the balcony. However, the restoration plans were never applied and the building was purchased by the city of Youngstown in 2011.
The Paramount Project, a group working to reuse the building in some capacity, wanted to save the facade for a small restaurant, and construct an amphitheater where the auditorium was located. However, two separate studies found that if the walls of the theater were removed, the facade would likely collapse. It would cost between 1.3 and 1.6 million dollars to shore the facade enough to survive the demolition. Due to the cost, the Paramount Project walked away from the building and in July 2013 it was demolished. The city turned the space into a parking lot.
The organ pipes were stored on the stage after the theater closed. They disappeared shortly before demolition.
View of the auditorium from the balcony.