549-59 Washington Street,
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Paramount Theater, Boston (Official)
Previously operated by: Paramount Pictures Inc., Publix
Architects: Arthur H. Bowditch
Firms: Elkus Manfredi Architects
Functions: Movies (Classic), Movies (Foreign), Performing Arts
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Paramount Theater
News About This Theater
- Jun 30, 2011 — National Trust for Historic Preservation Recounts Fate of Boston Theaters
- Feb 10, 2010 — Renovated Boston Paramount set to reopen in March
- Apr 14, 2005 — Emerson College to Redevelop the Paramount Theater
Opened on February 26, 1932 with Marlene Dietrich in “Shanghai Express”. The 1,797-seat Paramount Theater was the last of the great movie palaces erected on downtown Boston’s Washington Street, and the only one built exclusively for talking pictures. It was closed in 1976, and much of its interior detail was lost during asbestos removal in the 1980’s and decades of neglect and dereliction.
In 2002, Millennium Partners painstakingly restored the Paramount’s façade, marquee, and vertical sign. Millennium agreed to do this in exchange for city approval of their adjacent Ritz-Carlton Towers project (which included the new 19-screen Loews Boston Common (which has its own page on Cinema Treasures). The restored sign is occasionally lit up at night, and is a glorious sight to see. The derelict auditorium was demolished.
On April 13, 2005, Emerson College announced plans to redevelop the Paramount Theater into two live stages, one seating about 450 and the other 75 to 125. Emerson would also redevelop an adjoining building which once contained the Bijou Theatre (which has its own page on Cinema Treasures) and will construct a new building in a vacant lot that once contained B.F. Keith’s Theatre (which has its own page on Cinema Treasures). The entire development, to be called the Paramount Center, will provide Emerson with much-needed dormitory and rehearsal space.
Emerson College has won much praise for its restoration of the nearby Cutler Majestic Theatre, so its involvement in the Paramount Theater is great news for Washington Street.
The Paramount Theater reopened as a performing arts center on March 6, 2010 and is now known as part of the Paramount Center. A new, main 590-seat theatre was created with Art Deco style splendour, with seating for 326 in the orchestra level and 264 in the balcony.
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Recent comments (view all 269 comments)
There appears to be a way to project film on the Paramount mainstage. Last night on New Year’s Eve (aka First Night 2011), the Paramount presented this event, which featured a live band accompanying thirteen Andy Warhol ‘Screen Test’ films. The films were black-and-white silents, shot in 16mm in Academy ratio (4x3).
Video showing Psycho at the Paramount (shortly before 6 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DjRzj_Ufiew
Grand opening ad from February 25th, 1932 uploaded here.
The ABC-TV outlet in Boston, WCVB, Ch 5,has a long-time early evening program called “Chronical” which visits various places and areas in New England. On Monday Jan. 12, there was a 30-minute visit to the Boston Theatre District. However, they only covered one section of the district, centered on the Opera House on Washington Street. And somehow, after 15 minutes, the show wandered off-topic, and I actually fell asleep out of boredom during the last 5 minutes. Hey, “Chronical” staff, if you want viewers to come back, you’ve gotta do a better job than this! Some misinformation on the program: ### The Modern Theater was THE place to go for movies in Boston ### No, hardly. ### Your grandparents went to the Paramount to see the likes of Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman perform ### No, there were no stage shows there. ### There is a secret passageway from the Paramount to the Opera House ###. Pure claptrap. The only passageway between the two theaters is the sidewalk out front. Who makes up these foolish stories??
My dad managed the Paramount for several years in the late 40’s and 50’s. I found this photo from 1953 taken in the lobby of the Paramount:
He’s the guy with his right hand on the plaque. You’ll notice the typo calling the event the “50th Anniversary of Supersonic Flight” rather than the “50th Anniversary of Flight” as the Wright Brothers flew in December 1903. The wall poster in the background on the right is for John Wayne’s 1953 movie “Island in the Sky.”
Dad also participated in the rededication of the Paramount Center in March 2010 at the age of 90. Here he is being interviewed at the event:
1950’s photo courtesy of the Old School Boston Facebook page.
1977 and 2015 photos added.
The interior was not restorable because the roof was almost non existent and most of the ceiling had fallen onto the floor. There was 3-4 feet of water in the basement and the asbestos removal was an excuse to demolish the rest of the interior that was still intact after years of vandalism and neglect. We were lucky the building was saved at all.
Yes, Direspaul is correct. Some people today are under the impression that the Paramount they see is the original building. The only parts of the building today which are original are the facade, including the marquee and vertical sign, plus several feet of the sidewalls and roof leading from the facade wall. All of the remainder was removed. The interior was in very poor condition after many years closed and not maintained.
How often does it need to be said that the Paramount project 10 years ago was not a restoration. Only the facade and marquee were restored; the remainder of the building was demolished. The theatre is new-construction, and the auditorium today looks nothing like the original. It definitely was not “restored to its former glory”, to use a cliche. I write this because I just today read a newspaper article which states that the Paramount has been “beautifully restored”. No, I don’t think so.