3300 Washington Avenue,
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Firms: McDonald & Company
Styles: Spanish Baroque
The Paramount Theatre was constructed in 1930 on the corner of Washington Avenue and 29th Street in downtown Newport News. It was built on the site of the Academy of Music. It was opened October 2, 1931 with Nancy Carroll in “Personal Maid”. It was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary M.A. Lightman. A 3/10 Barton theatre organ (stop for stop identical to a Wurlitzer of the same size) was installed in 1931 and was opened by organist Bob Hess from Detroit, MI. Later house organists were Sid Lindsey and Gladys Lysle. I had the pleasure of meeting Gladys in the 1960’s when I was playing an electronic theatre organ at another venue. I also had the pleasure of playing the Barton organ on Saturday mornings while the maintenance people were getting the theatre ready for the first show (11 AM as I recall).The organ was maintained by Dick Charron who was a good theatre organist. The organ was sold in the early-1970’s and went first to Maryland, then Kansas City, and finally to Las Vegas.
The Paramount Theatre featured seating on a stadium plan, with a raised section at the rear rather than an overhanging balcony. I fondly remember the drink machines on the second level where you put in your nickel, then watch the cup drop down and then two jets (carbon dioxide) and (the flavor desired) mixed together. Occasionally the cup would not center and you’d watch your drink go down the drain!
The Paramount Theatre closed in the late-1970’s and was demolished around 1990.
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