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Built on the site of the former St. James Episcopal Church, the Broadway Theatre was opened August 1, 1912 with the pre-Broadway(New York) try-out of “The Girl from Montmartre” starring Long Branch resident Richard Carle and stage performer Hattie Williams. The theatre also exhibited silent movies such as “Birth of a Nation”, “Ben-Hur” and “Phantom of the Opera” The Broadway Theatre was built by Walter Rosenberg (who later became Walter Reade). It was closed in 1930 with the Fox talkie feature film “The Sky Hawk” starring Helen Chandler.
The interior was dismantled and a new interior was constructed in an Atmospheric Spanish-Morish style designed by local architect Leon Cubberly. It reopened as the Paramount Theatre on January 16, 1931 with the Paramount movie “The Gang Buster” starring Jack Oakie.
Lasting only 28 years, the last three years of operation saw speciality “Roadshow' prints of "Around the World in 80 Days”, “The Ten Commandments” (anamorphic wide-screen print) and “South Pacific”. The Paramount Theatre was closed on September 1959 with “Darby O'Gill and the Little People” and “Cast a Long Shadow”. The theatre was to resume operation in 1960 with the last exhibition of “The Ten Commandments” on June 8, but this never happened.
In June 1961, Walter Reade Jr. announced the Paramount Theatre would be demolished. This too never happened. It was planned to reopen in June 1965 after the installation of 70mm stereo projection and sound and later planned to install a Cinerama three strip & single strip system with a curved screen. Again, none of these occured.
In 1975 plans were considered to glass enclose the balcony and have meals served from a restaurant to be installed in one of the adjoining stores. The theatre would have live productions and film, with a curved screen being lifted into the fly-tower during live performances. The Greater Long Branch Arts Council(defunct in 1999) demonstrated the possible restoration of the theatre in 1998 as a live theatre & cinema. Obstacle to this was the ownership of the building which by 2004-2005 was enthusiastically accepted and progress began. Broadway Arts was formed and plans and designs drawn up for a complete renovation of lower Broadway, with the Paramount Theatre restored and the Strand Theatre across the street to be used for live productions. Broadway Arts folded and the Strand Theatre was demolished. In the meantime the Paramount Theatre had been in use as a store by Siperstein’s Paints until they vacated it around 2011. The Paramount Theatre was demolished June 12, 2017.
Who can be faulted for the creation of desolation row at lower Broadway? I leave it up to the reader and/or citizens of Long Branch and Monmouth County.
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