314 N. Washington Avenue,
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Delayed and over budget, the Paramount Thetare in Marshall, Texas opened on March 31, 1930. The opening was the first event in what the city of Marshall dubbed ‘Program of Progress’ month. The East Texas Theatre Company, Inc. commissioned Emil Weil, Inc. an architectural firm based in New Orleans, to design the 1,500-seat Atmospheric style theatre.
On opening day, the front windows were decorated with telegrams from prominent movie stars congratulating the theatre on its opening. The first feature was “Young Eagles” starring Buddy Rogers and Jean Arthur, and “Brats”, a Laurel & Hardy comedy short. Live acts, including Rajah Vogi, and East Indian hypnotist, played at the theatre during its early years.
By 1941, the Paramount Theatre was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary Julius Gordon. The Paramount Theatre would play a small roll in the American Civil Rights Movement by helping to inspire James L. Farmer, Jr., a civil rights activist, to form the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942. Farmer, who was born and raised in Marshall, said that the humiliation of using the segregated entrance and sitting in the balcony were some of the things that inspired him. In 1950, W.L. Gelling, the manager of the Paramount Theatre, booked the movie “Pinky” to show in February. “Pinky”, a film about an interracial romance, was banned by the city of Marshall due to its subject matter. Gelling was fined and convicted for showing the film. He appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who overturned it.
The Paramount Theatre closed as a movie theatre in the 1970’s, and was turned into a western themed dinner theatre. The seats on the main level were replaced by a dance floor. After the themed dinner theatre closed, the building was purchased in 1986 by Sky Spencer, who intended to turn it into a recording studio. Spencer gradually began to make alterations to the theatre, but was unable to complete them, and the recording studio never opened. After owning the theatre for over two decades, Spencer unsuccessfully tried to sell the Paramount Theatre via eBay in 2007.
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