Paramount Theatre (New York City)
Paramount Theatre entrance, 2003
New York City
|Current use||office and retail|
|Opened||November 19, 1926|
|Closed||February 21, 1966|
|Architect||Rapp & Rapp|
The Paramount Theatre was a noted 3,664 seat movie palace located at 43rd Street and Broadway in the Times Square district of New York City. Opened in 1926, it was a premiere showcase theatre and New York headquarters of Paramount Pictures. Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount predecessor Famous Players Film Company, maintained an office in the building until his death in 1976. The Paramount Theatre eventually became a popular live performance venue. The theater was closed in 1964 and its space converted to office and retail use. The tower which housed it, known as the Paramount Building located at 1501 Broadway, is in commercial use as an office building and is still home to Paramount Pictures offices, and remains a Times Square landmark.
Following the closing of the Times Square Paramount Theatre, two other theaters in Manhattan have had the same name: The Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden and a movie theater in Columbus Circle, now demolished.
The Paramount Theatre opened on November 19, 1926 with the gala showing of God Gave Me 20 Cents with Mayor Walker and Thomas Edison as guest. The stage gala was produced by John Murray Anderson.
The theater housed one of the largest and most admired theater organs ever built by the Wurlitzer company. Designed for the famous organist Jesse Crawford, the organ was used for solos and to accompany silent films. The organ had 36 ranks of voiced metal and wooden pipes weighing a total of 33 tons. Crawford, who advised on the construction and installation of the organ, was the theater's featured organist from the 1926 opening until 1933. The organ continued to be played intermittently throughout the Paramount's history by George Wright and other noted organists.
The murals in the theater's dome, Grand Hall and Elizabethan Room were painted by the Chicago-based artist Louis Grell. Grell was noted for murals that he painted in the 1920s and 30s in many Rapp and Rapp-designed theaters in the Paramount-Publix chain.
The Paramount began hosting live music along with its feature films as the swing era got underway. Glen Gray's orchestra was the first live band to play there during the week of Christmas 1935. Over the following years, the Paramount became the leading band house in the United States, as performers such as Benny Goodman, Jack Benny, Tommy Dorsey, the Andrews Sisters, Harry James, Phil Spitalny, Xavier Cugat, Fred Waring, Eddy Duchin, Gene Krupa, Augusto Brandt, Bill Kenny & The Ink Spots, Glenn Miller and Guy Lombardo played extended runs there. The use of the Paramount by the big bands was immortalized in Barry Manilow's 1994 song "Singin' with the Big Bands" from the album of the same name.
With the theater spin off in 1950, Paramount Pictures rented the theater to United Paramount Theatres. During the 1950s, along with the Paramount Theatre in Brooklyn, it was the site of live rock'n'roll shows presented by promoter Alan Freed. It was also the site of the world premiere of Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley's first movie. Thousands of fans gathered outside the Paramount Building, which was adorned with a huge paperboard picture of Presley, on the night of the premier. Also, Buddy Holly & The Crickets performed "Peggy Sue" there after becoming a big hit.
The last showing under United Paramount Theatre (UPT) ownership was The Carpetbaggers. The theater closed on August 4, 1964 under UPT ownership only to be reopened later that year on September 4 owned by Webb and Knapp.
The theater was gutted and turned into retail space and office space for The New York Times. The entrance arch was closed in and the marquee removed. There was no trace of the theater remaining, but in 2000, a large section of the Broadway office building was leased by World Wrestling Federation, which recreated the famous arch and marquee (with the Paramount logo restored) and developed the space into WWF New York, a themed club and restaurant. Though after a battle with the World Wildlife Fund in 2002 the complex was renamed The World (WWE). The WWE operation closed in 2003, and the location then became home to the Hard Rock Cafe, relocated from its previous home on 57th Street.
The Paramount's Wurlitzer organ was removed prior to the theater's demolition and installed in the Century II Convention Hall in Wichita, Kansas in 1968. The organ continues to be used today for concerts and other events.
- Madison Square Garden. For a short while in the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Theater at Madison Square Garden was called the New Paramount Theater after a corporate merger. Before it was called the Paramount, it was known as the Felt Forum.
- Slide, Anthony (February 25, 2014). The New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry (revised ed.). Routledge. p. 156. ISBN 1135925542. Retrieved April 17, 2015.
- (In 1928, William Fox ordered four Wurlitzer organs identical to the Paramount model for the Fox Theatres in Detroit, St. Louis, Brooklyn and San Francisco). www.nycago.org
- Marquis Who's Who in America
- Billboard, 3 Jan 1942, p. 3.
- 20Oct/34, NY Amsterdam News
- Lyrics of "Singin' with the Big Bands". www.songlyrics.com. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- IMDB: Love Me Tender Trivia
- CinemaTreasures.org: ParamountTheatre
- New York Paramount Wurlitzer (official site)
- Louis Grell Foundation
- Paramount Theatre stage manager's records, 1936-1956, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts