Paramount Theatre (Brooklyn)
The Paramount Theatre (now the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Athletic Center) is a former movie palace located at 1 University Plaza at the intersection of Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues in downtown Brooklyn, New York. Originally opened in 1928, the building has been owned by Long Island University (LIU) since 1962. Converted for use by LIU as classroom space and a gymnasium, the building retains much of the theater's original decorative detail. The venue is now operated as a 1200-seat multi-purpose arena, formerly home to the Brooklyn Kings basketball team.
The Paramount Theatre, built in 1928 by Paramount Pictures, was designed by the Chicago theater architect team Rapp and Rapp. A sister Paramount Theatre was located in Times Square, Manhattan. The rococo-designed theater had 4,084 seats covered in burgundy velvet, with a ceiling painted with clouds. A 60-foot stage curtain was decorated with satin-embroidered pheasants, along with huge chandeliers and fountains with goldfish.
According to anthropology professor Michael Hittman, "while the Brooklyn Paramount is remembered as a popular movie house and early home of rock ‘n’ roll, it is a little known fact that it helped introduce Brooklyn to jazz, with artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis." Duke Ellington first played at the Paramount in 1931. According to the (Dutch) biography 'De Keizer van het Jiddische Lied' it was in 1943 that singer Leo Fuld introduced the Yiddish music on this stage. In the 1950s, Alan Freed’s rock ‘n’ roll shows played at the theater, with acts including Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. Buddy Holly played a show in September 1957.
When Alan Freed fell victim of the payola scandal, TV host Clay Cole continued the ten-day holiday show tradition, in shows produced by Sid Bernstein. The first, Clay Cole's Christmas Show broke all existing attendance records with a show featuring Ray Charles, Bobby Rydell, Brenda Lee, Neil Sedaka, Johnny Burnett, The Delicates, Kathy Young, Dion, Bobby Vinton, Bo Diddley, Chubby Checker, Bobby Vee and groups, the Drifters, Coasters, Shirelles, and Little Anthony & The Imperials. The last live rock 'n' roll stage show at The Brooklyn Paramount was "Clay Cole's Easter Parade of Stars" headlining Jackie Wilson and an all-star cast. Then the theatre was shuttered.
The General Manager of the theatre was Eugene Pleshette, father of the actress Suzanne Pleshette.The theater was bought by Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, in 1960 and converted into its current use as a gymnasium for LIU in 1962.
The Wurlitzer organ in the Brooklyn Paramount has 2,000 pipes and 257 stops, and continues to be used at LIU sporting events.
Anthropology/Sociology Professor Dr. Michael Hittman presented an all-day seminar, a one-credit cross-linked course with emphisis on rock 'n' roll on March 27, 2009, at the LIU Brooklyn campus library. Clay Cole was the keynote speaker and hosted panel discussions on the connections between rock 'n' roll and the historic Paramount Theatre. The seminar concluded with a ninety minute doo wop show, with artists.
The Brooklyn Paramount building was renamed Metcalfe Hall by LIU after the University's first president, Tristram Walker Metcalfe. (Metcalfe is remembered for his announcement in 1936 that LIU's Blackbirds basketball team had refused to attend Germany's Olympics due to Hitler's discrimination against Jews.)
The former Paramount was the home of the LIU Blackbirds basketball team until 2005. The Northeast Conference men's basketball tournament was held here three times. Since the Blackbirds moved to the LIU Athletic, Recreation & Wellness Center, the venue has served as an occasional host of Gotham Girls Roller Derby bouts and as the home of the Brooklyn Kings of the now-dormant USBL.
- Official website
- Cinema Treasures listing
- Long Island University
- Clay Cole's show at Brooklyn Paramount
- Paramount Wurlitzer organ New York Theatre Organ Society
- Photo of fans at an Alan Freed concert at the Paramount Theatre Life Magazine, 1955
- Photo of a Rock and Roll concert on stage at the Paramount Theatre Life Magazine, 1958
- Photo of LIU gymnasium/Paramount Theatre Life Magazine, 1971
- Interior photographs Scouting NY, 2013