Paramount Center

549-59 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02111

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Paramount Center

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened on February 24, 1932, the 1,797-seat Paramount Theater was the last of the great movie palaces erected on downtown Boston’s Washington Street, and the only one built exclusively for talking pictures. It was closed in 1976, and much of its interior detail was lost during asbestos removal in the 1980’s.

In 2002, Millennium Partners painstakingly restored the Paramount’s facade, marquee, and vertical sign. Millennium agreed to do this in exchange for city approval of their adjacent Ritz-Carlton Towers project (which included the new 19-screen Loews Boston Common cinema). The sign is occasionally lit up at night, and is a glorious sight to see.

On April 13, 2005, Emerson College announced plans to redevelop the Paramount’s interior into two live stages, one seating about 450 and the other 75 to 125. Emerson would also redevelop an adjoining building which once contained the bijou Theatre and will construct a new building in a vacant lot that once contained b.F. Keith’s Theatre. The entire development, to be called the Paramount Center, will provide Emerson with much-needed dormitory and rehearsal space.

Emerson College has won much praise for its restoration of the nearby Cutler Majestic Theatre, so its involvement in the Paramount is great news for Washington Street.

The Paramount Theater reopened as a performing arts center on March 6, 2010 and is now known as part of the Paramount Center. A new, main 590-seat theatre was created with Art Deco style splendour, with seating for 326 in the orchestra level and 264 in the balcony.

Contributed by Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 262 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 3, 2010 at 10:32 am

Another item of interest in the new Paramount “Mainstage” (Theatre) is the faux box office/ticket booth out on the sidewalk, centered underneath the marquee. It’s slightly larger than the original ticket booth out there. I didn’t examine it closely, but I believe that it’s totally fake and cannot be used. Inside, on the right side of the lobby there is a spacious box office with 2 ticket windows. Nearby, at the point where one’s tickets are taken there is a large ancient steel safe on display. It was found in the basement of the Arcade Building next door.
One of the Emerson students at the Open House asked me where one purchased movie tickets in the original Paramount and was quite surprised to hear that they were purchased from the booth on the sidewalk and not inside. This was a common practice in the old movie theaters.
Upstairs in the lower balcony foyer there is a sofa in the center of the floor and this supposedly came from the Paramount’s balcony foyer. Someone who got into the building around 2005 told me that he saw it up there.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 28, 2010 at 10:55 am

The Sept 2010 issue of Live Design magazine has a feature article on the Paramount Center. There is a great deal of tech information on the lighting and sound systems. There are some color photos. The article states “This was a historically-informed renovation, not an actual restoration.” It points out that the blue or green grillwork fan which is canted over the orchestra pit is original to the old theater. Also states that the wing space at stage-right is limited; that there are 27 counterweight lines on the stage plus an old-fashioned hemp pin-rail. Some of the light and sound features are cleverly hidden from view. There is also a set of traps in the stage floor. The side-to-side distance in the new auditorium is about the same as in the old. Same with the floor-to-ceiling distance (probably as measured down front by the orchestra pit.) The front-to-back distance is not the same.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 28, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Is the front-to-back distance longer or shorter in the new theatre?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 29, 2010 at 5:12 am

The Paramount and neighboring Modern will be used as venues for First Night on New Year’s Eve, according to

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 29, 2010 at 10:40 am

Ron Newman- the front-to-back distance in the new Paramount auditorium is shorter than the original. (from the proscenium to the rear auditorium wall). The stage and the foyers are larger in this theater than those in the original.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 4, 2010 at 11:21 am

Regarding “the faux box office/ticket booth out on the sidewalk, centered underneath the marquee”

This appears to be solely decorative right now, as there are no openable windows from it to the sidewalk. The windows are frosted so you can’t see inside. It is not a separate structure but is part of the theatre building. A locked door leads from the vestibule lobby (between the inner and outer doors) to this structure.

Perhaps they’ll find a use for it eventually.

coweyhere on November 6, 2010 at 8:51 pm

A photo from September 2010:

View link

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm

There appears to be a way to project film on the Paramount mainstage. Last night on New Year’s Eve (aka First Night 2011), the Paramount presented this event, which featured a live band accompanying thirteen Andy Warhol ‘Screen Test’ films. The films were black-and-white silents, shot in 16mm in Academy ratio (4x3).

HowardBHaas on February 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Video showing Psycho at the Paramount (shortly before 6 minutes)

rivest266 on May 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Grand opening ad from February 25th, 1932 uploaded here.

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