Paramount Theatre

121-27 3rd Avenue SE,
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

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The Paramount Theatre - October 27, 2012

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Built by A.H. Blank of Des Moines, this theater opened as the Capitol Theatre on September 1, 1928, with 1,945 seats. It featured vaudeville, movies, and a mighty Wurlitzer organ. The half-block long lobby includes a Hall of Mirrors, which leads to a grand staircase. The lobby was patterned after the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles in France. A year after opening, the theater was sold to Paramount Studios and renamed the Paramount Theatre.

Much later, a multi-decade restoration project was begun to save the theater. During this process, numerous improvements were made. 1,600 yards of carpet were duplicated and replaced. The chandeliers, made of Austrian cut glass, were restored. The huge downstairs lounge, complete with fireplace, was restored in the late-1970’s by the Junior League of Cedar Rapids.

Until 1973, the lobby and lounge were filled with oil paintings from Europe, gilt mirrors, chests with marble or bronze busts, statues on pedestals, tables, sofas upholstered in blue and green velvet, and gilded lamps. In the auditorium, most of the seats were re-upholstered with red velvet. The original draperies only needed cleaning. The ceiling did not need cleaning because of it’s unique air-intake system. The Pagoda-style box office was also restored.

The Wurlitzer pipe organ (original cost $28,000) was restored too and is presently maintained by the Cedar Rapids Area Theatre Organ Society. Cedar Rapids is one of only two other cities to have two working theater organs in their original installations. The other is the ‘Rhinestone Barton’ in the former Iowa Theatre.

The people of Cedar Rapids who took on this project believe in the concept of adaptive reuse, which is simply the process of remodeling older buildings for contemporary purposes. From the look of it, they’ve done a great job.

Unfortunately, the Paramount Theatre was closed dure to flooding in January 2008. After renovations, it was reopened on November 3, 2012.

Contributed by Mike Geater

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 9, 2010 at 6:54 am

Here is a December 1952 ad from the Cedar Rapids Gazette:
http://tinyurl.com/yf7jrdk

spectrum
spectrum on January 11, 2010 at 7:00 pm

The CR-ATOS website has more updates on the organs. Consoles for both the Paramount and Theatre Cedar Rapids organs were damaged “beyond repair” and the soplor chamber of the Barton received heavy water damage. CR-ATOS and Cedar Rapids Barton inc. are working together on restoration and conservation the Barton at theatre Cedar Rapids, which will include a replica of the original console. The city of Cedar Rapids recently approved a restoration plan for the Paramount and in early 2010 planning efforts will begin for the restoration of the Paramount Wurlitzer and replication of the console.

The renovation of the Theatre Cedar Rapids and the Barton has already commenced, and is scheduled for completion by spring 2011.

Here is a photo of the partly submerged console of the Barton at the Theatre Cedar Rapids:

View link

Here is a photo of the toppled console of the Paramount Wurlitzer:
View link

A more detailed set of articles on the restoration progress of both theatres and organs with more photos and updates can be found at the main CR-atos page: http://www.cr-atos.org/

spectrum
spectrum on November 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Detailed restoration plans for the theatre have been released; the restoration will include a complete restoration of the WurliTzer and replication of the original console. http://www.cr-atos.org

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 24, 2010 at 10:10 am

Oct.31 1940 has Baby Sandy in “SANDY GETS GER MAN”.

0123456789
0123456789 on January 31, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Are they going to put the original organ back and in working condition?

Jakorns
Jakorns on February 27, 2011 at 1:45 am

The pipes for the organ and the relay are still in the chambers. The console is a total loss as is the blower. A replacement blower has been located. There are possible leads on a replacement console of similar vintage that can be redecorated to match the original. Restoring the organ is very much part of the plan.

Snordmann
Snordmann on January 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm

How is the organ restoration proceeding? Anyone know what other organ elements are needed? I have a lead if someone has a contact. Thx

flyboyslc1
flyboyslc1 on February 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm

The organ components were removed from the theatre over the February 11th weekend. They are on their way to Reno Nevada for a complete restoration that will take about 18 months. I am the job super on the restoration. You may enjoy watching some of my videos on YouTube that i have posted regarding the restoration. Search for username flyboyslc1 There are currently about half a dozen videos and i post one or two more a week. The theatre is scheduled to be open again late October of 2012.

Jakorns
Jakorns on October 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm

The Paramount will reopen Nov. 3 2012. The organ console has returned to the theater, but it will still be another year before the rest of the components return and are installed. The stage house has been expanded and the orchestra pit enlarged. The seating has been reduced to around 1700.

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