Paramount Theater

1700 Main Street,
Springfield, MA 1103

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Roger Katz
Roger Katz on December 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm

spectrum: It is still open with live concerts listed on their Facebook page.

spectrum
spectrum on August 21, 2012 at 5:15 am

WGGB website has an August 6 2012 article with the latest on the Paramount here:

http://www.wggb.com/2012/08/06/springfields-paramount-theater-to-undergo-renovations/

It looks like it is currently closed. Bought in 2011 by the Farm Worker’s Council. The Council is proposing a $36,000,000 renovation to reopen it as an entertainment venue, with construction hoprfully to start Spring 2013.

No mention of how much fundraising still needs to be done. At least it has already had a lot of renovations recently. Looking forward to hearing more news on progress.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Described in this 1929 trade article: archive

gd14lawn
gd14lawn on January 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Any word on any progress at this theater? I see that it was sold last summer but I can’t find any information about any renovations or plans to reopen.

I remember seeing Santana her in the 1980’s. I also saw Taj Mahal, who is from Springfieldat the Paramount.

rivest266
rivest266 on September 11, 2011 at 1:57 am

This opened on September 29th, 1929. The grand opening ad is uploaded in the photo section.

JustinMarsh
JustinMarsh on June 19, 2011 at 7:04 am

“As Springfield continued to wither..?” Has the author of this write-up visited Springfield in the past half decade or so? The opposite of “withering” is currently occurring in Metro Center Springfield.

With all of the new arts and entertainment organizations that have formed in Springfield within the past few years (Apremont Arts jumps immediately to mind;) and all of the bohemians, LGBT residents, and empty-nesters who have recently moved to Metro Center condominiums, in my opinion, this city is likely to “take off” within the next few years (especially in light of the billions of dollars in infrastructure, medical, entertainment, and medical construction.)

As to the Paramount, it was recently purchased by Herbie Flores' Farmer Workers' Council – a group interested in bringing more arts to Springfield. Currently, the former Hippodrome is being renovated to the tune of $1.725 million. According to Mr. Flores, the Paramount will continue to host movies and concerts, but will also feature a new coffeehouse and upscale Spanish restaurant.

I realize that a lot of people who haven’t been to Springfield recently probably do not understand or know much about the renaissance currently underway in the city; however, in my opinion, many will likely know soon.

spectrum
spectrum on April 1, 2010 at 9:35 pm

The paramount is reopening! First event will be April 7, 2010, and more are on their calendar!

spectrum
spectrum on September 1, 2009 at 4:49 am

Just found out, the organ is indeed in playable condition, “playing better than it has in years” – looks like some restoration has been done and they are organizing volunteers to continue with restoration and maintenance. Hopefully there will be some organ concerts to come. This is one of the few organs remaining as originally installed in its original theatre.

spectrum
spectrum on August 18, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I forgot to mention…

One of the photos on their website showed the organ console raised during a wedding reception. I don’t know if the organ is actually playable at present (an earlier post said it was not in playable condition), but at least the console has been cleaned up enough to be presentable. Hopefully someone can get it in condition to have organ concerts.

spectrum
spectrum on August 18, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Big updates!

Owners Michael Barasso and Steven Stein announced they have closed on a loan that will allow them to pay off the Hippodrome’s tax liens and upgrade the sprinkler system to meet the new codes and allow them to reopen the venue! The loan will also be used to buy out the other owners, and complete the Phase II renovations. The name is being changed back to the Paramount.

Phase I was the extensive renovation done before the place opened as the Hippodrome in 2000. Phase II will complete interior renovations started in Phase I, as well as upgrad restrooms, construct a new marquee and renovations to the outer facade.

Once Phase II is completed, the Paramount will re-open (sometime in late 2009)

Phase III will involve renovating the upper floors of the lobby portion of the building into offices, housing and Artisan “live-work” space.

Barasso and Stein have long and successful histories in managing a number of major nightclubs in massachusetts including the Roxy in Boston and Palladium in Worcester among others.

Read more at their page at:

http://paramounttheater.blogspot.com/

It will once again me known as the Paramount Theatre

meredithlee
meredithlee on July 15, 2009 at 1:34 am

A friend and I were cruising around Springfield today, sightseeing, and I wanted to show her the theater. When we drove up there were some young guys outside and a door open. I asked if we could go in, one said no, but another said OK and led us inside. There weren’t a lot of lights on but it looked to be in great shape. The main floor was covered with small tables and chairs for the club, which they said has been closed for about 2 years but hopes to reopen in about 8 months, after the roof is redone. The organ was up out of it’s hole on the stage. They said they believe it still works. Word came from another guy outside that we had to leave. The marquee needs some work too.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 5, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Someone Who Was There recently has heard that it has been decided to proceed with the installation of fire safety systems in the Hipp and that afterward the theater will reopen.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 17, 2007 at 6:11 pm

I have heard a vague rumor that the Paramount/Hipp in Springfield is not in compliance with some new fire safety regulations and may have to close – anyone know anything about this ??

bcnett
bcnett on March 12, 2007 at 3:23 pm

The organ in the theatre is currently unplayable, but the management has expressed some interest in doing something about that.

unknown
unknown on March 5, 2007 at 11:42 pm

The Paramount’s entryway was (and is) in the northeast corner of the Hotel Massasoit Building (ultimately converted into retail and office space), located at 1700 Main Street just south of “the arch” (the massive stone railroad overpass which crosses over Main Street just west of Union Station.) Over the entry was a very large marquee with both a front panel and two side panels. Other than the change in name, the marquee in the current photo appears to be the same one. Ditto, as far as the vertical sign goes (in my experience, a “blade” sign like this was known as an“upright” by those who managed and staffed these elaborate theatres).There was an exterior box office at the center of the entry with doors flanking either side. Above the entry was an additional marquee-type space on which changeable marquee letters could be hung to repeat the titles of current attractions posted on the main marquee. The Paramount’s marquee also had three panels on its underside (or backside) positioned so that they could be read as patrons left the theatre and also by pedestrians on the sidewalk. These “supplementary marquees” had the same black metal letters against a white glass background used on the main marquee.They were illuminated, like the main marquee, by light bulbs behind the translucent white glass. Beyond the entry doors was a somewhat long, fairly low-celinged hallway ascending at a gentle incline upwards towards two archways which opened into the main foyer. Glass-encased poster displays announcing upcoming attractions lined both side walls of the entry area. Inside the entryway, over the main doors, positioned to be seen by patrons exiting the theatre, was a large, horizontal advertising panel which displayed a colorful insert promoting whatever was the “next attraction” scheduled at the theatre.

The main foyer was about two stories in height and had a massive, lantern-style, wrought-iron chandelier in the center of the ceiling. I believe it had to be lowered to the floor of the foyer for relamping. The second story level of the foyer was paneled in mirrors on three sides which I believe were gold-backed (rather than the usual silver) and served to amplify the feeling of size and grandeur in this impressive area of the theatre. During its several-decade heyday as a first run film showcase, a large concession stand occupied a significant portion of the main foyer. When one entered this area, the concession was ahead towards the left center of the room, the main stairway to the mezzanine and balcony swept upwards at the right. This stairway reached a landing in full view of the foyer, then turned, ascended to the left, reached another landing, where there was a drapery-adorned archway and alcove leading to the entrance to the manager’s office (actually a suite with several rooms, including a private lavatory with sink and toilet), and also a winding staircase which went all the way up to the rear of the balcony. At this landing the main stairs then again turned left and ultimately reached the mezzanine foyer, where there were railings at which one could stand and look down over the entire main foyer. The mezzanine foyer had passages to the front area of the balcony seating area and entrances to additional rest rooms running along its left side. Along the right wall was an elaborate water fountain, stairs leading to the back of the rear balcony seating area, and the entrance to a children’s nursery, with nursery rhyme characters painted on the walls of a play area and pint-sized sinks and toilets in the kiddies rest room. In the early days, a matron was on duty to care for and entertain the kids who otherwise would have created a disturbance in the theatre during a performance.

The entry to the main floor of the auditorium was a long, low-ceilinged hallway at the far end of the main foyer. This area was lit with subdued lighting (in contrast with the brilliant illumination of the chandelier in the foyer itself) with doorways on the left side, which were the entries to the various aisles of the orchestra floor of the auditorium. The Paramount did not have a “standee” area at the rear of the main floor behind the last row of seats, as was common in the majority of theatres built at the time — each entry door opened directly into one of the aisles. Running along the right side of this hallway were the accesses to the main floor rest rooms and doorways which opened into vestibules which led to the side exit doors running along Gridiron Street. The assistant manager’s office and various storage rooms were located adjacent to these vestibule areas. At the end of this hallway was an additional stairway to the mezzanine and balcony levels and a large, double-doored “fire exit.” All of the exit signs, as well as many of the lighting fixtures throughout the theatre had Tiffany-style glass. The lighting fixtures on the ceiling under the balcony over the main floor area were particularly notable.

The Paramount’s auditorium, to the best of my knowledge, had a seating capacity of almost 2800 (2700 “something” — I don’t recall the exact figure) during its years as a great Springfield movie palace. After the orchestra floor was reseated in the late 70s, as a part of the alterations made to accommodate the Springfield Symphony Orchestra when it leased the theatre for two concert seasons while awaiting the completion of a major renovation of Symphony Hall, the capacity was reduced to about 2500 seats. It had no “loge” level, but its balcony was divided into a “mezzanine” front section and a “balcony” rear section, separated by a wide cross-aisle.

The auditorium was ornately decorated and extensively tapestried with a very impressive curtain treatment adorning the proscenium arch. I believe there was some kind of cove-lit dome effect in the ceiling high above the balcony — memory is a little vague on this one. There was an orchestra pit and the Wurlitzer organ console rose on a lift at the left side of the pit (stage right) The organ pipes were concealed behind grilles on either side of the proscenium opening. Even though the Paramount opened with a talking picture, its Wurlitzer, of course, was equipped with the all the “bells and whistles” (literally) used to accompany silent films. The organ had “cathedral chimes”, “galloping horses”, “surf sounds”, “piano”, “boat whistle” and other novel effects. The stage was quite wide, but shallow and designed to handle variety acts and musical numbers, rather than fully-mounted, Broadway-type shows. One must remember, this theatre was designed as a movie palace, not as a facility to house live productions. There was a “quick-change” dressing room in the wings on the stage level (stage left). The main dressing room area was a multistoried area located also on stage left. One could enter this area and climb stairs up to the dressing room floors, or down to enter the orchestra pit or to climb onto the organ lift, flip the elevator switch, and ascend to the view of the audience in the auditorium. Here there was also the entry to the many basement level “catacombs” — hallways that ran beneath the entire auditorium off which were the boiler room, air conditioner room (a cooling system that used ammonia and not operative at the time I was involved with the theatre) and various other subterranean places. These hallways ultimately led to the area under the main floor at the back of the theatre, where they could be exited through what appeared to be a storage closet door off the main floor men’s room. The Paramount’s physical plant gave the feeling of being aboard a huge ship, due to its elaborate and extensive layout.

The projection booth was at the back of the rear balcony section (about six flights above street level). The equipment was apparently changed from time to time over the years (booth equipment also got “rifled” during the rock concert years); however, I believe it was Ashcraft carbon arc lamps with Super Simplex projector heads at the time I had contact with the theatre. The theatre used rectifiers rather than generators for the arcs. There were three machines instead of the usual two so that in case one broke down, there were still two machines working to make the reel changeovers without having to stop. There was also a carbon arc follow spot set-up for use during stage performances. Veteran operators told stories of the phonograph record turntables which were installed beside the projectors for the original Vitaphone sound-on-disc system. Apparently the Vitaphone sound system never really worked at the Paramount — the heavy vibrations of the trains passing by the back wall of the theatre on their way over the railroad arch to Union Station caused the needle to constantly jump off the record and ruin the synchronization! I can’t imagine there would have been much call for them anyway, as the sound-on-film (standard optical sound) was already rapidly replacing the Vitaphone system as the industry standard by the time the Paramount opened in 1929.

A unique detail at the Paramount was an electronic system of keeping track of the available seats throughout the theatre at any given moment. This was during the years of continuous performances when the theatre opened at 10 AM and ran the entire program over and over (with no breaks or stops) until 11 PM or midnight (depending on their prevailing contract with the projectionists local) This seat tracking system had telephone-like dials mounted in the wall at the side of each aisle doorway on the orchestra floor (I don’t recall where these were in the mezzanine and balcony, or if there actually were any on the second floor) The dials had numbers and apparently the number of empty seats could be dialed into the system by an usher working that section and the information registered on a large master-console like device which sat on a brass pedestal near the mezzanine foyer railing which overlooked the entry and main foyer. Apparently the head usher would monitor the console and communicate to the doormen what area of the theatre there were available seats so patrons could be directed to the proper aisle where an usher would lead them to an open seat in the darkened auditorium, while the show was in progress.

I’m sure there are many more details about this great theatre which escape my recall right now — however, suffice it to say, the Paramount was the most elaborate and well-equipped movie house in western Massachusetts. It was unsurpassed for amenities and special “accourtrements” which made the film-going experience a real “event.” It is unlikely that western Massachusetts will ever see any like it again.

unknown
unknown on March 5, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Some clarification: After Disney’s Buena Vista Distribution was formed in the mid 50s, some Disney product played the Paramount; however, there were occasional Disney bookings at the Stanley Warner Capitol and Loew’s Poli. 1964’s “Mary Poppins” for instance, was one of the last big first run hits at the Capitol before it ceased operation. By the mid 60s, all the Disney first runs were across the river at Redstone Showcase.

“Gone With The Wind” actually had one engagement at a theatre other than Loew’s Poli prior to its showing to inaugurate the re/revival policy at the reincarnated Paramount of 1979-1981. This was a booking of thee widescreen version at the Arcade in the very late 60s or possibly 1970.

unknown
unknown on March 5, 2007 at 10:44 pm

Springfield’s Paramount Theatre opened as a “presentation house” (offering a combination film and stage policy) in September 1929 — a little more than a month prior to the stock market crash and the onset of “the Great Depression.” The opening screen attraction was the highly forgettable early “talkie” THE DANCE OF LIFE with Hal Skelly and Nancy Carroll — a Paramount Picture. The opening ads touted “Springfield’s newest playground of pleasure!”

The Paramount was operated by Western Massachusetts Theatres, Inc. of Springfield, MA, then the regional affiliate of United Paramount Theatres with home offices in the Paramount Theatre Building, Times Square, New York City. UPT was the exhibition wing of Paramount Pictures, prior to the court decrees of the late 40s which required that film companies divest themselves of their theatre holdings. From 1929 through 1952, the Paramount Theatre was the “flagship” of the WMT circuit — their biggest and most opulent house located in the largest city in which they had theatres. The other two Springfield WMT houses were the Broadway and the Arcade — both downtown, and later the neighborhood Bing, as well. At this time WMT also operated the Rivoli in nearby Chicopee, the Falls in Chicopee Falls, the Strand in Westfield and the Victory, Strand and Bijou in Holyoke.

Apparently WMT did not own the Paramount at the time of its 1929 opening because Col. Samuel Goldstein’s son Ronald told me personally that his father bought the Paramount Building sometime in the 60s “because he always really loved that theatre.” So there must have been some kind of lease arrangement the Goldstein brothers (Samuel and Nathan) had with whomever did actually own the land and the building.

In 1952 (or thereabouts), Sam Goldstein leased several of his theatres to New England Theatres, Inc. (another Paramount-related circuit) — in the case of the Springfield Paramount, it must have been a sublease. The arrangement was for ten years (ending in 1962) and also included the Strand in Holyoke and the Capitol in Pittsfield and possibly several others. Throughout the 50s and early 60s, under the NET auspices, the Paramount remained one of Springfield’s primary showcases for first-run product, along with the Loew’s Poli, Capitol and Bijou. The Paramount played Paramount and RKO product (and therefore all the Disney classics which were released through RKO because Disney had not yet formed Buena Vista, its own distribution entity). The Capitol was exclusively Warner product, the Loew’s Poli, of course, played MGM and also 20th Century Fox. The Bijou had Universal, Columbia and United Artists. The Arcade was sub-run, prior to its renovation and conversion to its policy of 70mm long-run epics in the late 50s.

When the NET, Inc. (sub)lease expired in 1962, the other WMT theatres involved in the deal reverted back to Goldstein’s (WMT, Inc.) direct operation; however, NET, Inc. must have decided to extend the lease on the Springfield Paramount, as they continued to operate it until about 1966, at which time it ceased operation as a first-run movie house. The original Redstone Showcase Cinemas 1 & 2 had recently (1964 or 1965) opened across the Connecticut River in West Springfield and the “death-knell” for the big downtown Springfield houses was sounding. The Poli closed in 1966, as did the Capitol, and the Arcade followed not too long after. The Bijou went to softcore porn in the late 60s. It was probably at the time that NET, Inc. finally decided to pull out of Springfield that Sam Goldstein decided to buy the building; however WMT, Inc. did not reopen the theatre and resume operating it after it was purchased. The Paramount was leased by Goldstein to occasional promoters in the late 60s (mainly rock concerts, however, I do recall a national tour of “Hello Dolly” with Yvonne DeCarlo on stage for several nights around this time). About 1970 it was briefly leased to Irwin Cohen’s C & F Theatres (who also operated the Bijou in its porn house phase) Cohen tried to book whatever first run product was not being gobbled up by Redstone’s new suburban cinemas across the river and planned to bring in touring shows as well. It was after Cohen’s short-lived and failed attempt to revive the theatre (after a period of again being closed and inactive) that it was leased out by Goldstein to Wally Beach,a local impresario and promoter who had been involved with the Storrowtown Music Tent summer theatre in West Springfield. It was under Beach that the Paramount was renamed the Julia Sanderson Theatre. Beach tried national tours of Broadway shows, concerts, a silent film festival with Lillian Gish making a live guest appearance and other novelties. I believe Julia Sanderson was still alive at that time and made an appearance as well. Beach’s attempts at “restoring” the theatre resulted in decorative work being covered in white paint, spoiling the atmosphere of the auditorium and main foyer, truncating the marquee by removing the neon Paramount name and covering the blade sign with cheap-looking sheet metal with painted letters spelling out “Julia Sanderson Theatre” and various other desecrations.

The “Julia Sanderson Theatre” didn’t last long and by 1976 (or thereabouts) the front doors and box office were completely boarded up and drunks and derelicts were sleeping in fire exit doorways along Gridiron Street. Occasionally the boards were removed and the theatre was lit for a night with a rock concert sponsored by some local promoter.

In 1977, The Springfield Symphony Orchestra approached Western Massachusetts Theatres, Inc. with a proposal (to Sam’s son, the infamous Ronald Goldstein, who had inherited WMT, Inc. at the time of his father’s passing in 1973) to lease the theatre for several seasons while a major renovation of Symphony Hall was undertaken. New seats on the main floor were installed, along with a new house curtain (the original had been destroyed or stolen, I don’t remember which. This particular desecration apparently happened during one of the “leased-out” concert deals a few years before.). I won’t say this Springfield Symphony proposal resulted in a major restoration, because it didn’t. It was a typical “Ronald Goldstein” job. All that was done was the bare minimum demanded in the Symphony lease agreement, namely the new orchestra floor seats and the curtain. The “Wally Beach” white paint from a few years earlier remained, as did the “Sanderson” name. In 1979, with the Springfield Symphony preparing to return to Symphony Hall, it was decided by WMT, Inc. to continue operating the theatre beyond the Symphony’s time of residence. The name was returned to “Paramount” and a series of hard-ticket live shows were booked. “Beatlemania”, “Doug Henning’s World of Magic” (complete with a real live tiger being made to “materialize” on stage), and “Harry Belafonte in Concert” were among the many offerings. Concurrently, a “rep/revival” movie policy was inaugurated. This required the installation of a new screen and new speaker horns — items also missing since the “concert days” a few years before. Actually the speaker horns weren’t “new” — they came out of the very recently closed (1979) Victory Theatre in Holyoke. The Wurlitzer organ was also revived at this time and played prior to classic film showings on by a talented local organist. Local organists also rallied together to offer free restoration work on the organ. The inaugural classic film program was “Gone With The Wind” (a film which had historically always played at Loew’s Poli — both in its premiere engagement in 1940 and in many subsequent reissues) for a 5-day run in September to mark the theatre’s anniversary.So a film released through MGM (even though made by Selznick Studios) did ultimately appear on the Paramount’s screen.

Although there appeared to be much interest in the Paramount’s successful revival, WMT, Inc.’s interest in the project waned and the theatre was again shuttered by mid 1981.Ronald Goldstein finally sold the building some time in the 1980s. I believe the more recent chronology of the Paramount has been documented above by other contributors to this page.

In separate comment I’ll send details about the physical nature of the theatre —to the best of my recollection.

AlLarkin
AlLarkin on April 17, 2006 at 6:45 pm

It did open in 1929. I recall reading somewhere that the seating capacity was around 3000. Can’t imagine it ever being an MGM exhibitor with the Paramount name and the Loew’s Poli having exclusivity on MGM (and 20th Century Fox).

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 14, 2006 at 3:55 pm

The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Paramount on Main St. in Springfield has a facade photo taken in May 1941. The Report states that the house was not a MGM customer; that it was over 15 years old; that it was in Good condition, and that it had 708 seats on the main floor and 858 in the balcony, total: 1566 seats. But, having been inside it once, that figure seems too small to me. I also have a figure of 2400 seats, while someone above posted 3755 seats, which may be too many. There are opening years posted above of both 1926 and 1929— does anyone know for sure when it opened and approx. how many seats it had ??

AlLarkin
AlLarkin on May 3, 2005 at 9:23 pm

This was Springfield’s finast. A true movie palace. It just missed the era of loges, but was very ornate with its percenium, chandaliers, tapistry, balcony and Broadway style facade.

mmmasterpainter
mmmasterpainter on April 5, 2005 at 2:16 am

I was fortunate enough to have been sent to Springfield to work on the restoration of the auditorium for Evergreene Painting Studios. On a day to day basis, for eight weeks, a painstaking cleaning process was instituted, enabling someone to witness the uncovering, through the removal of black soot caused by the coal heaters, of an irreplaceable gem of a structure. The owners, Mike & Steve, visited the site on a day-to-day basis and were astonished, as we all were, at the details uncovered daily. The really astonishing fact was that, in comparison, the Empire State Building took one year to the day from start to finish, for construction. The Hippodrome took twice as long to build!
Michael Marullo
Absolute Painting & Restoration
New York

rnoyes
rnoyes on December 6, 2004 at 7:33 am

As the Paramount, the theatre still had sporadic live shows between 1986 and 1999; I saw a stage version of the Rocky Horror Show there in 1991. At the time the auditorium looked a bit run-down but was still very beautiful.