Brooklyn Paramount Theatre

385 Flatbush Avenue Extension,
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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kerryrichards on June 20, 2006 at 10:30 pm

I was there on Sunday and I spent about two hours wandering around inside and out. I had dinner at Junior’s across the street then wandered over.

  1. The first thing on the exterior you notice is that the fire escapes are all removed. Then you can see the stagehouse it was small, but had flyspace. On the inside you can see the stage was not that deep I’d say about 20 feet! I find this really surprising, so it must have been built mainly for movies.

  2. The original plasterwork, procenuim, and ceilings are all still there, and in remarkable condition.

  3. LIU has removed the mezzanine, most of the balcony seating, and has retained the lobby as a restaurant.

  4. They have tried to utilize as much of the space as possible. The mezzanine level doors to the old boxes are now small offices. The stagehouse flyspace area has been floored in and that space used up. The stage entrance and associated rooms are now the LIU securuty department.

  5. The balcony has been walled into the existing space and converted to classrooms retaining some of the the original upper balcony seating area.

  6. The stairways to the upper areas of the theatre have been removed and the connected office building is now used to get upstairs.

  7. The lobby is in great shape, and the grand staircase to the mezzanine is still there.

The space is remarkable, but I think it is very unlikely it will ever be restored. The stage is too tiny for todays use, and the abutting buildings seem to prevent any expansion.

I then drove up Flatbush to look at the Kings, how depressing!

BrooklynJim on June 12, 2006 at 5:24 pm

What a theater! What a building!

Located on the downtown side of Fort Greene Park (and Brooklyn Hospital where I made my own earthly debut way too many years ago), the Brooklyn Paramount on that corner, across Flatbush Ave. Extension and Junior’s Restaurant with its sinful luscious cheese cake), was a landmark. Still is.

The Brooklyn Paramount was also the site, I believe, of a number of Alan Freed Rock ‘n’ Roll shows at Easter and Christmas. (Freed, one of the best deejays Cleveland ever sent us, was convicted in ‘60 by a Senate sub-committee for payola practices – which were standard practice in the industry at that time! – and fired from his nighttime spot at WINS radio. He died penniless in Florida in '65. Meanwhile, his stage shows were taken over by Murray the K Kaufmann, also the self-proclaimed “5th Beatle,” now also deceased.)

Recall seeing “The Blob” there in 1958. There was even a 45 of the title tune released by the 5 Blobs on Columbia. Don’t remember ever hearing it on 1010 WINS, but I still have a mint DJ copy of it!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 7, 2006 at 8:03 pm

Nice one. What a roof sign!

RobertR on April 10, 2006 at 10:09 am

A story from the day after the closing
View link

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 7, 2006 at 7:26 am

Thanks Warren. I thought so, but I wasn’t sure if that retrofit had been complete by summer ‘62. I suppose any further discussion of this fact should continue on the Capitol’s page, but it’s incredible that more than half of the Capitol’s original seating was concealed behind draperies.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 6, 2006 at 2:31 pm

The article cites the Paramount’s 4144 seating capacity as being “second only to Radio City” in NYC. What about the Loew’s Capitol on Broadway? Had they already curtained off large chunks of seating for the Capitol’s conversion to Cinerama by the summer of 1962?

RobertR on April 5, 2006 at 6:38 pm

Here is a NY Times story from the day before the theatre closed.
View link

EcRocker on March 3, 2006 at 10:28 pm

Yes Warren that is exactly what i saw when i went snooping around that day. I really do hope the LIU considers restoring the theatre.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 3, 2006 at 8:08 am

Wasn’t that film called “Heller in Pink Tights”? Unless there were alternate titles. The film was directed by the great George Cuckor, though this was certainly one of his lesser efforts, and featured former child star Margaret O'Brien (“Meet Me in St. Louis”) all grown up.

GeoffreyPaterson on February 24, 2006 at 6:19 pm

Ed – Judging from the two copies in my collection (and many from previous years before Hall’s version), it appears that the Music Hall updated their souvenir booklet every time there were major changes in personnel. Ben Hall originally wrote it in the mid-sixties, when the phrase you refer to was “more than thirty years”. The bulk of the later versions (I know of at least two) used Ben’s original text, with names changed and a paragraph altered or added here and there and many changes to the photos and captions, including new covers. The added writing does have a similar “turn of phrase” in a couple of spots, so they might well have been channeling him!

I’ll never forget the last time I saw Ben, which was at the very first of Virgil Fox’s “Heavy Organ” Bach and light shows at the Fillmore East in early December of that year. Every organist in town was there, it seemed – certainly the ones who appreciated a good show – and Virgil did not disappoint. The place was sold out and the lines stretched around the block. His spotlit rhinestone-studded heels were the hit of the performance! Ben and I had a few brief words on the way to our respective seats in different parts of the balcony and arranged to get together in early January to discuss a revised version of “The Best Remaining Seats” that his publisher had apparently asked him to work on for its tenth anniversary in 1971. He wanted to talk to me about designing and producing it, and start going through his files with him to select photos from the thousands he had accumulated since the book first came out. As you can imagine, this was pretty heady stuff to a 20-year-old graphic design student with a love of theatre organs and movie palaces! Alas, two weeks later he was gone and that was that. I got “the call” the day before I left to go home for Christmas – those were NOT happy holidays that year!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 24, 2006 at 11:52 am

Geoffrey… I had no idea that Ben Hall had been murdered in 1970. I had to look it up on the internet to double check! Not to doubt the veracity of your comments, but, very recently I had posted some images from a Radio City Music Hall souvenir booklet on the RCMH page from 1978 and that booklet has an introduction about the Hall that was written by Ben Hall! Obviously it was written before his death, but the publishers of the booklet must have updated some of the comments without providing any disclosure of their alterations. In one passage Hall seemingly talks about the great showplace having survived “into the 1970’s” and refers to it still being in operations “more than forty years” after its 1932 opening!

Unless, of course, the editors of the magazine had channelled Hall from beyond the grave!

EcRocker on February 23, 2006 at 11:52 pm

Hi Patsy, The last time I was at the BP/LIU was almost 10 years ago. The first time I was in the building was back in the mid to late 70’s. When I walked in the doors it still looked like I was walking in to a theatre. I looked in the main orchestra area and was surprised that it was the athiletic center for LIU. I had thought they still used the theatre for production. From what I could see at that time the suspended cieling was still there. The walls were almost untouched. The stage looked like it had been gutted out and I did not see any type of fly rigging above the stage. It looked very bare. When I took a walk to the back of the house and up a grand stair way I walked up to where the balcony seats used to be and the area was sectioned off and they turned it in to class rooms. As I was saying in the previous post the last time i was in there it was in good enough shape that it could be renovated and restored to it’s former glory. To bad that Con Ed bought out the o;d Brooklyn Fox. I never got to see the inside but from what I recall as a kid passing by it was huge on the out side then poof it was just a hole in the ground.

GeoffreyPaterson on February 23, 2006 at 4:04 pm

If I’m not mistaken, the wonderful historical descriptions of the organ and the theatre on the New York Theatre Organ Society web page (the ones that Patsy quotes and EdSolero links to above) were written by the late Ben Hall in 1970. I was an NYTOS member and a junior at Pratt Institute at the time and had the pleasure of working with Ben on the 1970 ATOS Convention souvenir booklet that he was putting together. He wrote similar pieces about each of the organs and theatres being used for the convention and asked me if I would design and produce the booklet and create illustrations of each of the consoles – he wanted to do something different from the usual photographs. It appears as if the NYTOS webmaster felt – rightly so IMHO – that Ben’s words could not be improved upon. (In any case, they own the copyright on the booklet.)

I was also charged with redecorating the console of the Wurlitzer for the same convention (someone had sprayed the entire case with gold monochrome gold paint and the desire was to have it look something like it did up to the mid-sixties – a mottled glazed background with gilded ormolu). Talk about a learning curve!

In my post of November 9, 2004, I describe what the theatre looked like in those days. The sound of that instrument in the room was breathtaking. The University wanted the organ used during the basketball games and back then my friend Jim Leaffe played most of them. He was a classical organ student with a love for the theatre organ and had a unique modern jazz style. The fact that he was the same age as the students and was playing hits of the day made him very popular. He was very proud of the fact that he was the only member of the Seneca tribe to become a theatre organist! He even recorded the instrument, an amazing album called “Blue Heron”. Look for it on eBay.

I remember a number of NYTOS-sponsored concerts on the organ, which was restored and taken care of by an all-volunteer crew led by Bob Walker. Over the years, Bob gave the instrument the TLC and fastidious attention it deserved. Without his dedication I doubt that the instrument would have been kept in as excellent condition as it was.

One of the most touching moments occurred during Don Baker’s homecoming concert in February (I think) 1971. It was his first time playing the organ since he had been on staff shortly after it had opened. The concert was the first NYTOS event since Ben Hall’s murder the previous December, and we asked Don if he would play a tribute to Ben, which he readily agreed to. The number we asked him to play was one of Ben’s favourites, the theme from the “Little Orphan Annie” radio program. Trouble was, Don didn’t know it! I stood beside him just before the concert and whistled the melody to him, twice, as he memorized it with his eyes closed. About five selections into the concert he explained the tribute and then played the most beautifully subdued, almost reverent, arrangement of what is really a pretty bouncy tune. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place by the time he finished. That one is on record, too, on a Don Baker album called “Homecoming”, which features excerpts of this concert.

Patsy on February 23, 2006 at 2:08 pm

Rocker: Great idea and I’d even make a trip to NYC to see it! If you are in the NYC area, have you seen this theatre/gym? The experience to see a basketball game with such surroundings would have been unique to say the least!

EcRocker on February 23, 2006 at 10:09 am

Hey Patsy look at it this way. At least they didn’t demolish the place. Unlike the Kings that has suffered from weather beating and vandalism the BP is still in good shape. An effort should be spearheaded to restore this historic place and turn it in to a cultural center for live shows and concets and maybe even premier movie openings. A lot has been done over the last 10 years to rebuild the area so why not include the BP. Unlike the Kings the BP is in a major transportation hub of subway and bus lines as well as a short walk from the Atlantice Ave LIRR terminal.

Patsy on February 23, 2006 at 9:08 am

Warren: That b/w photo was certainly breathtaking and to think it was made into a…………gym? Unbelievable!

JimRankin on February 23, 2006 at 7:33 am

The photo Warren links to is the one I spoke of in my post above. Looking at it there again, I couldn’t help but wonder at the enormous job of replacing the light bulbs!! There must have been THOUSANDS of them in there!! This would have been one of those cases where by the time a man got done replacing bulbs at one end of the theatre, it was time to start again at the other!

ERD on February 22, 2006 at 4:58 pm

I remember the beautiful multi colored lights in the auditorium. Yes,
the Brooklyn Paramount was absolutely stunning. The lose of this and other movie palace masterpieces of architectural design is very sad as one retrospectively looks back. In reality, to restore this theatre would be staggering in price- most of the theatre would have to be reproduced since so much of the original interior is gone. Of course if someone thinks they can do it-more power to them!

JimRankin on February 22, 2006 at 9:22 am

While I’m on the subject of one of my very favorite theatres, the B.P., let me excerpt a small portion of a MARQUEE article on the business practices of the B.P. which did NOT deal with business:

“In the lower lounge the architects had planned the installation of a huge fish tank to be stocked with exotic fish. There were large colored spotlights on both sides of the tank, red, blue, and amber, …. The tank was approximately ten feet in height and fifteen feet in width…. On the night before the opening of the theatre the workmen began filling the tank with water, slowly…. The water had reached perhaps three quarters of the tank’s capacity , representing thousands of gallons…. Suddenly there was a tremendous crash; the glass gave way and an enormous cascade of water came pouring into the lounge, engulfing everything, including us.

“Need I say that the lounge had been completely furnished with magnificent carpeting, furniture, artworks, bric-a-brac, etc. Bedlam reigned….

“We toiled all night [to clean up.] Everyone was exhausted. We could not remove the soaked carpet, but managed to bail out most of the water…. It tooks weeks to restore the lounge to its intended beautiful state, minus the fish tank. Architects make mistakes too.” —-by Ben Rosenberg on page 26 of MARQUEE of 3rd Qtr. 1999 (Vol 31#3)

Let me speculate here that it was not the architects' fault at all. An architect is also an engineer and can easily calculate the strength of glass and framework needed for so much water, unless all details were up to a negligent contractor, as this would have legally been a ‘furnishing’ and thefore not part of an architect’s contract. Likely what happened was that those lamps warmed the glass just as the workmen put in the hose from the nearest cold water spigot. Cold water on warm glass would have created so much thermal stress that failure of the glass was a forgone conclusion to any engineer, and no doubt none were present that night. Large aquariums were successful in many other theatres, so the concept was not at fault; the installation was. One wonders what replaced so large a furnishing.

JimRankin on February 22, 2006 at 8:35 am

Patsy: Ed Solero’s post above mine came in while mine was being written, so now I know where you got the quote from: that organ page. Let us all hope that the organ —and what remains of the theatre— survives this transition to new use or new ownership! Any ‘angels’ out there who care to fund a multi-million dollar restoration?!!!!

JimRankin on February 22, 2006 at 8:18 am

Patsy puts quotation marks around the wonderful description but forgot to list the source! You know: Speaker, Title, Date, etc. Come on Patsy; I know you can do it. Any more of the description that can be copied?

As to views of the original interior, do look up the article I listed above where there are 4 views in b&w, of course, one of which is not seen elsewhere. That elsewhere includes the Theatre Historical Society’s MARQUEE magazine of 3rd Qtr. 1998 (Vol 30 #3) wherein there are 11 photos (including a gorgeous two-page spread) as well as the cover, all vintage b&w. This can be obtained for a few dollars under the BACK ISSUES link on their site: They also have color snap shots of the interior pre- and post gymnasium conversion, not published. All these can be made for you as photo prints for a fee; see their link there: ARCHIVE. Send them a photocopy of the view you want from the magazines and the appropriate fees as listed on their ARCHIVE page, and in a few weeks you will have a photo print worthy of framing. I know; I have an 8x10 of that glorious proscenium! I sometimes use a magnifier and put it and the photo close to my nose and then slowly back it away, and the sensation is as though one is right in the room. Of course, once you get a photo, nothing prevents you from blowing it up to mural size if you really want to be able to ‘walk into’ it!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 22, 2006 at 7:48 am

Patsy… I can’t recall seeing any good photos of the theater’s interior at all. However, here is a link that was posted last year with a photo and some info about the organ:

EcRocker on February 21, 2006 at 7:42 pm

I hope LIU considers restoring the Paramount to it’s former glory now that they will not be having basketball in there. I had been in the building a couple of times and even in it’s current status it is still a grand place.
And Wow looking back in the posts and seeing Clay Coles name. I know i was only 8 in 1964 but I do remember his TV show. :)

Patsy on February 21, 2006 at 7:20 pm

“The Brooklyn Paramount was the capstone in the career of the noted architects, Rapp & Rapp, and for sheer opulence it outshone anything they ever designed.” This sentence warrants repeating so thus this post in regards to the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre.