Paramount Center for the Arts

518 State Street,
Bristol, TN 37620

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Paramount Center for the Arts

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Bristol Paramount Theatre opened in 1931 with Carol Lombard in “It Pays to Advertise”. It is unusual for the fact that it sits right on a state line, on State Street, which is appropriately named, because it divides the states of Tennessee and Virginia.

Seating 765, the Paramount Theatre originally hosted both stage shows and motion pictures, and also contained a Mighty Wurlitzer, which was lifted hydraulically from the orchestra pit to stage level.

The Paramount Theatre is decorated in a stunning Art Deco style, with touches of Venetian Renaissance decor inside.

In the 1950’s, when a CinemaScope screen was installed, the ornate proscenium arch was damaged and its organ taken out. The theatre continued to screen movies until 1979, when it was shuttered after decades of being the premier entertainment venue for Bristol.

The Paramount Theatre’s restoration began in the 1980’s, and more than $2 million was spent on returning it to its former splendor, including enlarging the depth of the stage to 36 feet (by knocking out a rear wall), recreating the long-lost marquees, including a two-story tall sign spelling out the theatre’s name which soars over State Street.

The Paramount Theatre now rents a Wurlitzer organ from the Piedmont Theatre Organ Society, which is a chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society, for $1 a year to replace its own lost Wurlitzer.

For over a decade now, the Paramount Center for the Arts, which it is now officially known as, has hosted everything from Broadway shows like “Annie Get Your Gun” to concerts by Hootie and the Blowfish and Emmylou Harris, and is also the home of several local organizations, including Theatre Bristol, the Piedmont Theatre Organ Society, the Bristol Ballet Company and the Bristol Concert Choir. The Paramount Center for the Arts is also used for civic functions and conferences.

The Paramount Center for the Arts is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

ItsNickJ
ItsNickJ on December 30, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Theatre Bristol is a performing group not an actual theatre. The building in question at 512 State Street, just up from the Paramount, contains the offices for Theatre Bristol as well as a smaller venue (about 125 seats) know as the “Art Space” created for smaller productions.

mrchangeover
mrchangeover on January 26, 2008 at 1:43 am

Anyone have any interior photos of the Paramount?
Nothing on their website.
Thanks.

ItsNickJ
ItsNickJ on January 26, 2008 at 3:32 am

I’ll look around and see if I have any.

Boyder
Boyder on April 2, 2008 at 11:04 pm

View link is a slide show on the theatre and the present organ, which does rise from the pit. This organ came from the Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville, Va., which due to the renovation lost their organ chambers and can no longer support a theatre organ.

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on August 20, 2008 at 2:54 am

Without question the Paramount is one of the most beautiful theatres on this planet! Support it, visit it. It is a true gem. The following photos from August 2008 do not do justice to the Paramount, but a least give a taste of what it has to offer: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Boyder
Boyder on August 20, 2008 at 11:05 am

You can read about the theatre and the organ with lots of pictures of the renovation and the theatre today at
http://www.piedmont-theatre-organ-soc.org/

DonLewis
DonLewis on December 25, 2008 at 8:46 pm

A 1992 view of the Paramount Theater in Bristol.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on February 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I was in Bristol on Saturday and saw this lovely theatre. I have taken a picture to post, but unfortunatley I don’t know how to do it since the add a photo link is offline.

DonLewis
DonLewis on November 19, 2010 at 4:28 pm

From the 1950s a newsprint photo of the Paramount Theater in Bristol.

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