Paramount Theatre

1501 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Mark1
Mark1 on July 26, 2004 at 6:03 am

When walking past the Paramount one day in 1960, I saw a sign for a special preview. I bought a ticket and sat through whatever was playing, and then the preview came on. It was “Let’s Make Love” with Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand. When exiting the theatre, from the balcony, approaching the giant stairway, I noticed people ahead of me at the top of the stairs were posing for photographs. They turned out to be Shirley MacLaine and Milton Berle.

William
William on July 23, 2004 at 11:49 am

At the Paramount Theatre for VistaVision, they had to cut into the sides of the proscenium to make the screen larger. Remember the Paramount Theatre was a tall narrow theatre, compared to other RAPP theatre designs.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on July 23, 2004 at 11:21 am

Jacques—
Yes, I think it was the Paramount— in the mid 50’s they installed a huge VistaVision screen that covered the entire proscenium, with projection from the lower balcony overhang. I believe the first feature to use it was “Strategic Air Command.” The first I saw it was for “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” For non-VistaVision films, the screen shrank to conventional size (as I recall for “Love in the Afternoon”).
Box Office Bill.

Jack
Jack on July 22, 2004 at 4:29 pm

In the 1950s, one of the movie theaters on Broadway claimed to have the world’s largest indoor movie screen. Was it the Paramount? If not, which theater might it have been? I’m trying to flesh out my personal memoirs. Thanks. Jacques.

EMSIII
EMSIII on June 26, 2004 at 10:57 pm

The thirty-six rank Wurlitzer in the Times Square Paramount was based on Wurlitzer’s largest standard model, the 285, such as the magnificent example installed the the San Francsico Granada Theatre in 1921. Those were known as “two-pressure” organs, meaning the blowers supplied 15" & 25" pressures. The 285’s “Brass” division, consisting of an English Horn (Post) on 15" pressure and a 25" Tuba Mirabilis, became the “Orchestral” division on the 4 manual specials. The Paramount was the first of the five instruments falling under that classification. I knew Bob Mack well and often communicated with Dan Papp by letter. Respectfully Submitted, Edward Millington Stout

ERD
ERD on June 22, 2004 at 10:36 am

To clarify, Mr. Crawford told me he specified certain ranks for the New York Paramount organ. However, that is all he did. He did not design the entire organ. Mr. Craford did design the Publix #1 Wurlitzer organ at the request of the Pulix theatre chain.

ERD
ERD on June 21, 2004 at 10:28 am

I met with Jessie Crawford when I was young. Among the things he spoke with me about was his contribution to the designing of the New York Paramount organ. Mr. Crawford’s contribution to the Paramount organ is also mentioned by Ben M. Hall in “Best Remaining Seats."
The Command recording, as I mentioned above, used the theatre organ-not the studio organ.

Jakorns
Jakorns on May 20, 2004 at 7:14 pm

The Bay Theatre’s organ was installed in a recording studio in the Paramount building. This organ was used for making records and for radio broadcasts. It was not the auditorium organ, that organ is in Witchita Kansas. The original console for the auditorium organ burned in a fire while in storage and a replica replacement was built. The theatre’s organ was not designed by Jesse Crawford, the organist. Jesse repeatedly denied designing the organ, he attributed it to one of the designers at Wurlitzer. The organ in the recording studio was designed by Jesse.

JimRankin
JimRankin on March 25, 2004 at 4:32 am

And yet the subsequent two editions retain the caption to those missing color plates, no doubt confusing to a great many people!

William
William on March 24, 2004 at 1:32 pm

If you are looking for “The Best Remaining Seats…”. Try looking for the earlier first & second editions of the book. It has a few color pages, that later editions do not have.

JimRankin
JimRankin on March 24, 2004 at 12:32 pm

The Theatre Historical Soc. issued a 41-page ANNUAL titled: “Times Square Paramount” in 1976, but it is unfortunately out of print. Some libraries were/are subscribers to their “Marquee” magazine and therefore also received the ANNUAL for that year, so check nearby libraries; every library can also check for you the Union List of Serials to find out what other libraries have copies of it from that year that you might go to see. The Society retains all the original photos used in that publication as well as many more that they will reproduce for you for a fee. See their ARCHIVE link on the sidebar of their site at: www.HistoricTheatres.org It is possible that if enough interest is present, they will reprint that ANNUAL as they have done with other titles.

There was no color still photography in the 1920s, hence photos of that day are always black and white, but we are fortunate in the case of the NY PARAMOUNT to have had a color painting done of the proscenium to show the enormous Grand Drapery on it, and that painting is reproduced in color on page 255 of the 1927—1932 book: “Decorative Draperies and Upholsteries” by Edward Thorne. You could put that volume on any color copier and get an excellent copy suitable for framing. It is interesting that the 6-story-high draperies depicted there were made also by men from Chicago, as a commenter alludes to in a previous Comment. They and all the many other draperies in the theatre had their trimmings (giant pendants, tassles, fringes, gonfalons, etc.) made by the E.L. Mansure Co., formerly of Chicago. The portion of the proscenium ceiling dome shown there is depicted as merely painted clouds, but in reality, the cove-lit, long rectangular space had a mural of a winged goddess standing in front of the disk of the moon, with cupids aflight all around her, as revealed by the opening day photos in that ANNUAL.

That Annual also reveals that the Grand Lobby originaly had TWO enormous crystal chandeliers, which were removed during World War II in fear of their falling upon people during anticipated bombings during the war, which turned out to be an excess of caution. For the same reason, the eight auditorium chandeliers were also removed; it appears that none of them were ever replaced, so what one person commenting saw in later years were likely smaller, cheaper replacements in the lobby in later years.

There are also there photos of the unique Promenade in the dome of the auditorium as someone alludes to previously, and while it may have been closed off due to patron noises, it seems more likely to me that it was too difficult and expensive to ‘police’ with perhaps 15 more ushers needed to survey the 60-foot-long ellipse, the corridors leading to it, as well as the elevators serving it. When the Great Depression arrived just three years after opening, the PARAMOUNT no doubt began to feel the pressure to reduce costs as did everyone else; the grand decade of the extravagant was definitely over. It is also possible that the patrons were prone to toss little things down upon the audience —just for kicks, you know— and obviously the ushers couldn’t be at everyone’s side when something was tossed, and management couldn’t allow such goingson to continue! A novel idea, but too impractical given human nature, and glazing the 24 openings would have been prohibitively expensive at the time they closed the area. In Milwaukee, Rapp&Rapp also did two theatres that had the ‘Overview’ portals from the back wall of the mezzanine lobby looking down upon the orchestra seats below, and they quickly found that the patrons loved to toss items down upon the audience, and therefore in the case of the WISCONSIN the portals were glazed over, allowing views but nothing else. In the case of the MODJESKA, which is still standing, the portals are boarded over and not apparent except fromt the seats below.

Some other photos of the “Times Sq. Paramount” are also to be seen in that landmark book: “The Best Remaining Seats: The Story of the Golden Age of the Movie Palace” by the late Ben M. Hall, founder of the Theatre Historical Society. This 1961 opus is the seminal work in the field and not to be missed; copies of it are available on Inter-Library Loan, as well as for sale from www.Amazon.com .

Jim Rankin [email][/email

ERD
ERD on February 29, 2004 at 11:39 am

The Paramount organ was built & installed by the Wurlitzer company, following specifications of Jessie Crawford, “The Poet of Organ,” who with his wife ,Helen, were featured at the organ’s twin consoles when the Paramount opened on November 19, 1926. The organ had 36 ranks of pipes which produced a wide variety of sounds. After the theatre closed in the summer of 1964, 300 members of the American Association of Theatre Organ Enthusiasts meet in the Paramount in a six hour session to listen and play for on the organ for the last time. Ashley Miller made the last recorded performance of the organ
(Lerner & Loewe selections). Dan L. Papp, who had cared for the
organ since the opening of the Paramount, came out of retirement to
to make sure the organ was in top playing condition for the Command stero record. I have the album, and enjoy listening to this
beautiful instrument in its original setting.

p7350
p7350 on February 27, 2004 at 3:05 pm

I remember “Thunderball” having a special engagement at the Paramount. I remember taking an 8mm movie of the marquee.

William
William on February 27, 2004 at 2:36 pm

Could it have been “Goldfinger” not “Thunderball”, you were thinking of. Because “Goldfinger” had special 24 hour a day screenings when it opened in the city. And it was released a year earlier than “Thunderball”.

Orlando
Orlando on February 27, 2004 at 1:44 pm

I doubt if any of the original Paramount staff was on hand for the “Thunderball” engagement during the 1964-5 Christmas booking. The WWF occupied the storefront behind the restored marquee and arched window. Since the entire theatre was gutted, WWF couldn’t have been operating in the “stage area” of the original theatre as mentioned several comments before. That would have meant occupying the whole ground level of that side of the building, which they didn’t. I hope the marquee and arch window remain intact for whatever use follows the WWF. The Paramount needs to be remembered and these two reminders will do just that even if they are not original.

RobertR
RobertR on February 27, 2004 at 1:00 pm

This is an interesting peice of trivia. I wonder who they had handeling the day to day operations of the theatre during “Thunderball”.

Orlando
Orlando on February 27, 2004 at 12:53 pm

The last movie to play the Paramount was “Thunderball” which had been rented/leased by “Cubby” Brocoli and the United Artists film company after the theatre ceased operation under the “United Paramount Theatre” chain. “Thunderball” played continuously 24 hours a day for the first three weeks. It played a total of 10 weeks. The film also played one other east side theatre. In between “The Carpetbaggers” engagement, the theatre was sparadically used for concerts to little avail. The grosses for the Paramount for “Thunderball” were blockbuster numbers, so if the bookings had been continued at this caliber, the theatre might have remained opened for a little while longer.

Sean Ryan
Sean Ryan on December 4, 2003 at 5:38 pm

That picture is very interesting. It seems there were no cars at all and people are just milling around in the middle of the street. Odd isn’t it? Granted this was before cars were as common to own as they are today.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 2, 2003 at 10:24 pm

The name “Paramount Theater” has had a transient history in Manhattan since the mid ‘60’s demolition of this grand old auditorium — the Brooklyn Paramount notwithstanding. During the '70’s and '80’s there was a subterranean theater in the Gulf and Western building on Columbus Circle that was called The Paramount. I’m not sure if it opened concurrently with the G&W building nor am I sure if it was always known as The Paramount (I assume it was so dubbed when G&W became the parent company of Paramount Pictures). Regardless, the building has since been converted by Donald Trump to residential/hotel usage and the theater was demolished/converted to other use in the '80’s. Sometime after this, the old Felt Forum inside Madison Square Garden was briefly known as The Paramount during a period when both Paramount Pictures and the Garden were subsidiaries of the same parent corporation. This last Paramount, however, was never intended for the exhibition of motion pictures.

I mention this only as a footnote to history of The Paramount.

WilliamMcQuade
WilliamMcQuade on October 10, 2003 at 4:13 pm

The WWF restaurant has closed . The space is currently empty. So much for progress

SteveP
SteveP on March 13, 2003 at 11:21 am

The recently replaced arched window above the marquee is much more shallowly set then the original arched window, which featured a stained-glass Paramount mountain in its center.

Jakorns
Jakorns on September 7, 2002 at 10:11 pm

The organ in the theatre was a 4 manual 36 rank Wurlitzer- not a Cassevant. Jesse Crawford was the star organist. It was considered the definitive theatre organ by many in the organ world. The Wurlitzer now resides in Witchita Kansas in their Century Exhibition Hall

Jean
Jean on August 15, 2002 at 9:10 am

It was of the Publix movie chain when built.

GabrielleBuel
GabrielleBuel on July 23, 2002 at 11:58 am

And, my other grandfather, Joseph Aruta, painted the interior frescoes and all the gilt, as he did in many other NYC landmarks. I surely wish I could’ve seen this place before it was destroyed.

GabrielleBuel
GabrielleBuel on July 23, 2002 at 11:53 am

My grandfather, Wilfrid Lavallee, built the pipe organ for this grand theatre, for the Casavant Brothers Pipe Organ Company of Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec. I would like to know what became of it when this wonderful place was gutted.