Paramount Center

549-59 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02111

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rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 14, 2015 at 10:48 am

The ABC-TV outlet in Boston, WCVB, Ch 5,has a long-time early evening program called “Chronical” which visits various places and areas in New England. On Monday Jan. 12, there was a 30-minute visit to the Boston Theatre District. However, they only covered one section of the district, centered on the Opera House on Washington Street. And somehow, after 15 minutes, the show wandered off-topic, and I actually fell asleep out of boredom during the last 5 minutes. Hey, “Chronical” staff, if you want viewers to come back, you’ve gotta do a better job than this! Some misinformation on the program: ### The Modern Theater was THE place to go for movies in Boston ### No, hardly. ### Your grandparents went to the Paramount to see the likes of Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman perform ### No, there were no stage shows there. ### There is a secret passageway from the Paramount to the Opera House ###. Pure claptrap. The only passageway between the two theaters is the sidewalk out front. Who makes up these foolish stories??

rivest266 on May 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

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

HowardBHaas on February 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm

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

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).

coweyhere on November 6, 2010 at 8:51 pm

A photo from September 2010:

View link

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.

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 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

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?

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.

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.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 27, 2010 at 10:58 am

Perhaps the capacity had been reduced to 1500 by the time it closed in 1976? Just a guess.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 27, 2010 at 10:52 am

Emerson College produced a very nice, informative color folder about the Paramount Center which was given out at the recent open houses. It makes the point that the Paramount “could not be restored due to extensive deterioration.” (That’s for sure.) A minor error is that the seating for the Paramount is listed as 1,500 when there actually were almost 1,800 seats (1,797). It also mentions that the granite facade for the old Arcade Building (a.k.a. Bijou Building) next door has been restored, while the surviving remnants of the building itself “have been taken down and replaced (with a new building)”. The new Paramount Center complex is well worth visiting.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 26, 2010 at 10:16 am

When I visited Saturday, there was no set on the stage, which was completely dark and bare except for the large movie screen-like item hanging upstage. On another matter, when this project got underway, Emerson College began calling the proposed complex the “Paramount Center” but continued referring to the new theater as the “Paramount Theatre”. Now that it’s finished and open, their brochures continue to call the complex the Paramount Center, but the larger live theater is now called the “Paramount Mainstage”.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 25, 2010 at 1:15 pm

When I visited on Thursday, I think the mainstage curtain was closed, to conceal the set of Fraulein Maria which is playing this weekend.

The Paramount marquee and vertical sign are a real beauty. I love watching them when they are lit.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Also today, the marquee was lit. It’s full of leds which are electronically controlled, so you have the sight of a traditional large movie marquee with the fast-moving cartoon-like colors and words on it.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm

An Emerson student there today also noticed that the Wilbur and Shubert were on the map incorrectly. But there are other errors as well, such as placing the 19th century Globe too far north on Washington Street. The rake of the auditorium is indeed much steeper than the original, which did not have stadium seating on the main floor. When you were there was the house curtain up and did you notice what looks like a big movie screen hanging upstage? It may be a “cyc” intended for projecting colors during shows, and not a movie screen at all. As for “3 screens” and “Triplex”, let’s get real here; I just don’t buy using those terms for this theater!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Ahh, someone else who noticed the Shubert/Wilbur error on that wall. I wonder if they plan to fix it eventually?

I suggested changing the ‘Screens’ to 3 because the new seat count is the sum of all three performance spaces.

The raking of the new mainstage is much steeper than in the original movie theatre.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 25, 2010 at 12:15 pm

It’s rather silly to call this place a “triplex” as above. There are 3 performance spaces: the Paramount Theatre, a “black-box” theater, and a “screening room”, where films are shown. The latter 2 spaces are located in the adjacent building just to the north of the Paramount and are accessed by climbing the stairs from the Paramount’s lobby. There is also elevator service near the staircases. I went to the “open house” today and it was well worth seeing. I learned something new: the stage in the original Paramount was only 11 feet deep. The new stage is quite a bit larger and has a row of counterweight lines at stage-left. There appeared to be a large white movie screen at the rear of the darkened stage but I’m not sure of that. There is no projection booth in the theater, only light and sound desks at the rear of the balcony. There are permanent historical exhibits in both the lower and upper balcony foyers, and I found the remarks quite accurate. However, the huge map of the Boston theater district in the upper foyers has, unfortunately, some errors on it, including placing the Shubert and the Wilbur theaters on the wrong sides of Tremont St. The craftsmanship in the Paramount is first-rate.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 23, 2010 at 11:09 pm

And finally, they plan to show movies to the general public every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the Bright Family Screening Room. They handed out a paper schedule at the Open House, but unfortunately haven’t put it online yet. Looks like an interesting mix of foreign films, Hollywood classics, documentaries, and obscurities.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 23, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Also, the official name for this place is now the Paramount Center (rather than Theatre).

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I just got back from the first day of the Open House, during which time I was able to attend events in all three venues: the main theatre, the black box, and the movie screening room. I highly recommend that anyone who reads this go visit on Friday or Saturday this weekend. The entire complex is beautiful and will be a great asset to both Emerson College and the general cultural life of Boston.

Since the Paramount Center now consists of three separate venues, I suggest changing the ‘Screens’ from ‘Single Screen’ to ‘3 Screens’, even though only one of the rooms will be used to show movies. Here are the seat counts, from some literature i picked up at the Open House :

Main theatre – 590 seats — 326 at orchestra level, 264 in balcony. Orchestra pit accommodates 41 musicians
Black box – 150 seats
Bright Family Screening Room (movies) – 170 seats

The total seating capacity of all three rooms is therefore 910.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 2, 2010 at 11:47 am

According to the info in the link posted above, there will be Open Houses in Sept. after all, in addition to the Wednesday tours. There will be Open Houses from 4PM to 6Pm on Thurs-Fri, Sept 23-Sept 24; plus from 10AM – 6PM on Sat Sept 25.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 2, 2010 at 7:29 am

The Paramount has a large number of public events, some free and some ticketed, for Opening Weekend, September 23-26.

The Screening Room will show Shanghai Express, which was the Paramount’s opening film in 1932, as well as When the City Sleeps, En Attendant Godard, The Sound of Music, and a program of Warner Brothers Vitaphone shorts.