Paramount Theatre Springfield, MA

The Paramount opened exactly one month before “Black Tuesday,” the day that the stock market crashed.

Originally billed in opening advertisements as “Springfield’s newest playground of pleasure,” the Paramount Theatre in Springfield, Massachusetts opened on September 29, 1929. In 1926, the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, later known as Paramount Pictures Corp, signed a 14-year contract at $100,000 per year for the space at the former Massasoit Hotel and hired architect Ernest Carlson to design the theater. Carlson designed the Paramount for talking motion pictures, which were quickly replacing silent films. The 3,200-seat theater took three years to build, and cost $1,118,000 ($16 million when adjusted for inflation). A Wurlitzer 3/11 Opus 2011, Style 230 theater organ was installed prior to opening.

The lobby of the Paramount.

The opening week program at the Paramount consisted of the 1812 Overture performed by the New York Symphony Orchestra, Joe Alexander playing the Wurlitzer organ, a Paramount newsreel, and “Dance of Life,” a talking film starring Nancy Carroll and Hal Skelly. Like many other theaters of the time, entertainers often made appearances at the Paramount. At first it was as part of a vaudeville act, and later on to promote their films. Some of the stars that appeared at the theater included Ethel Barrymore, Jack Benny, Eric Von Stroheim, and Lillian Gish. The theater was operated by Western Massachusetts Theatres, Inc. (WMT), which was a division of Paramount Pictures. WMT also operated the nearby Victory Theatre in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The Paramount Theatre was WMT’s flagship theater until 1952 when the movie studios were forced to give up ownership of theaters by the verdict of the United States vs. Paramount Pictures Supreme Court case.

View of the auditorium from the stage.

Movies were the main attraction at the Paramount until 1966, when musical performances and other live entertainment began to be regularly shown at the theater. In 1969, the Paramount closed for the first time. It reopened In 1975 and was renamed the Julia Sanderson Theater, after a Broadway actress from Springfield. Live shows continued at the theater until 1979, when it became a revival movie house, and its name was changed back to the Paramount.  A new screen, and a speaker system taken from the recently closed Victory Theatre, were installed. It closed for a second time in 1986, but was used occasionally until 1999.

The Massasoit Hotel closed in 1926 – a portion of it was converted into offices, and the remainder became the theater.

It was purchased by Paramount Realty Investment LLC/Creative Theater Concepts, who spent $1.3 million turning the theater into a nightclub/live performance space. It reopened as the Hippodrome Theatre in December 2000. The Hippodrome was a popular nighttime downtown destination for most of the 2000s. In 2011, it was purchased by the New England Farm Workers Council (NEFWC) for $1.7 million. They operated the theater sporadically until closing for good after a shooting in April 2015.  NEFWC intend to remove the nightclub alterations and reopen the theater as a live performance space, as well as restore the Massasoit Hotel into an 81-room boutique hotel. The estimated costs for the restoration are between $32 and $41 million.

When it opened the Paramount had an air cooling system designed by Raymond S. Graham, which was the first of its kind in Springfield.
The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
“Gone with the Wind” was the first film shown at the revival house.
A close up of the mural above the proscenium arch.
View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony.
The Wurlitzer organ was restored during the 1999 renovation.

I’ll be hosting a photography workshop at the Paramount on November 4, 2017. For more details visit: http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/workshops/paramount-theatre-workshop

Advertisements

Theater Updates

In light of the recent demolition of the Boyd Theatre in Philadelphia, I thought I’d post an update for some of the theaters I’ve visited over the years.

 

View from the balcony of the Loew's Kings Theatre during renovation.
View from the balcony of the Loew’s Kings Theatre during renovation.

The Loew’s Kings Theatre in Brooklyn has undergone a $94 million restoration, and will reopen as a performing arts center in late 2014/early 2015.

The large mirrors in the Boyd's lobby are some of the art deco features that will be preserved.
The large mirrors in the Boyd’s lobby are some of the art deco features that will be preserved.

The Boyd Theatre was demolished in the spring of 2014, despite the efforts of the Friends of the Boyd. This demolition means that Philadelphia is one of the only large cities in America without at least one restored downtown movie palace. Fortunately, the Friends of the Boyd were able to come to an agreement with the owners to preserve some of the art deco features of the theater.

Continue reading “Theater Updates”

Paramount Theatre – Marshall, TX

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.

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.

Continue reading “Paramount Theatre – Marshall, TX”

Paramount (Broadway) Theatre

The paramount theater balcony
View of the Paramount Theatre from the balcony.

The Paramount Theatre opened as the Broadway Theatre in Long Branch, New Jersey on August 1, 1912. The project was commissioned by theater magnate Walter Reade on the site of an old Episcopal church. The 1,772 seat Broadway began showing plays and vaudeville performances before transitioning over to film.

Continue reading “Paramount (Broadway) Theatre”

The Newark Paramount Theatre

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.

View of the Paramount Theatre from the balcony.

The Paramount Theatre opened on October 11, 1886 as H.C. Miner’s Newark Theatre. It was originally a vaudeville house managed by Hyde & Behman Amusement Co., a Brooklyn based theater Management Company. After H.C. Miner’s death in 1900, his surviving relatives retained ownership of the theater for several years until its sale in 1916 to Edward Spiegel, the owner of the nearby Strand Theatre. Spiegel also purchased the building next to the theater with the intent to use the space to expand the theater. To accomplish this he hired famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb to do the alterations.

Continue reading “The Newark Paramount Theatre”

The Paramount Theatre

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.

Continue reading “The Paramount Theatre”

After the Final Curtain

I’ve been exploring and photographing abandoned buildings for several years,
but nothing has fascinated me more than abandoned theaters. After the Final Curtain is a photographic documentary about neglected and abandoned theaters throughout America. Through this project I’m hoping to generate a greater collective awareness of the stories behind these majestic structures and assist any organization that plans to restore them.

The posts will range from general history, to interviews with people who are involved with restoration efforts or were somehow associated with the theaters when they were open.

Here are some examples of theaters that will be featured in upcoming posts

Orpheum Theatre
The Orpheum Theatre New Bedford, Ma
Proctor's Theatre
Proctor’s Palace Theatre
Paramount Theatre
Paramount Theatre
RKO Keith’s Theater
The Penthouse Theatre in Newark, NJ
Proctor’s Palace Roof Theatre
The Fabian Theatre in Patterson, NJ
Fabian Theatre
Beacon Theater Beacon, NY