Brooklyn Paramount Theatre

385 Flatbush Avenue Extension,
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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Brooklyn Paramount Theatre, Brooklyn, NY - 1931

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built in 1928, by the studio that bore its name, the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre was opened on November 24, 1928 with Nancy Carroll in “Manhattan Cocktail” (a silent film with sound effects). On stage was Paul Ash’s Band, Maria Gambarelli and Eddie Cantor in “That Certain Feeling”, a ten act stage revue featuring violinist David Rubinoff, and the entire show was directed by John Murray Anderson. The twin consoles of the Wurlitzer 4 Manual 26 Ranks organ were opened by organists Henry Murtagh and George A. Johnson. The Brooklyn Paramount Theatre is a magnificent 4,124 seat movie palace, which opened only three months after the huge 4,088-seat Fox Theatre almost directly across Flatbush Avenue Extension. In hindsight, the Paramount Theatre was initially never a successful theatre as it had to compete with other nearby theatres:Metropolitan Theatre (3,580 seats), Albee Theatre (3,246 seats), Fox Theatre (4,088 seats) and Strand Theatre (2,894 seats) all within a few minutes walk away, perhaps the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre was one theatre too many? By April 1933 it was closed for 4 months and it was closed again from May 1934 until the Fall of that year, when it reopened with a movies only policy.

The main bulk of the auditorium is hidden from view on Flatbush Avenue Extension by the rather stark looking 10-story office block, which gives the building a 1950’s look rather than the style of architecture that was being built in the late-1920’s. A huge sky-sign was originally mounted on the top of the building and there were two huge blade signs above each side of the small corner entrance which had a marquee. The Brooklyn Paramount Theatre is considered to be one of the most flamboyant of all the theatres designed by the architectural firm Rapp & Rapp of Chicago. The large lobby, though grand and spacious, is rather plain compared to the auditorium treatment. Here on the side-walls of the auditorium are large bays and alcoves decorated with columns and urns with a plain wall behind. Originally a projected image was shown through these bays giving the audience a vision of looking through the arches onto formal gardens of French royal palaces in the 18th Century. The ceiling is a painted blue dome to represent the sky, under which is hung a perforated trellis. The entire auditorium treatment is in a French Baroque Atmospheric style.

Many stars have appeared on its stage, including:Buddy Rogers, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Mae West and Rudy Vallee. In later years business did pick up until the downturn began due to the increasing popularity of Television. It became popular in the 1950’s and one could say even famous for the Rock ‘n Roll shows staged by Alan Freed where Fats Domino, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis had the audiences dancing in the aisles. A sparse audience of only 300 came along to see the final film “Hatari!” starring John Wayne on August 28, 1962.

The Long Island University had already purchased the building in 1950 and converted the office block into their Brooklyn Campus. Upon the Paramount Theatre’s closure in 1962 they took over the theatre section of the building and removed the two giant blade signs and sky sign on the roof. The marquee was also removed and the vestibule entrance on the corner has been filled in and a new entrance inserted. The main lobby of the theatre now serves as a student canteen, and the spacious lounges beneath are now used as conference rooms and offices.

In the auditorium the orchestra floor has been levelled to provide the facility with a basket-ball court, and the mezzanine level and loge seats were removed. The rear of the huge balcony has been converted into offices. Harsh spotlights now illuminate the auditorium instead of the original subtle concealed and projected lighting which gave the auditorium its illusion of grandeur. The Wurlitzer organ has one console which is still in working order and over the years has been maintained. It is normally hidden away beneath the basket-ball court, still located in the old orchestra pit on its elevator. Many argue that the instrument is one of the finest in the country, if not the World!

On January 29, 2015 it was announced that Barclays Center affiliate Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment had formed an alliance with Long Island University to reopen the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre as an entertainment venue, which will host music, comedy and boxing events, in the auditorium which will have a seating capacity for 1,500.

Contributed by Ken Roe, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 264 comments)

kong1911
kong1911 on January 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm

There was a silent film “The Phantom of the Opera” done with the organ which went over very well except that it was the day before Sandy came and that kept people away but quite a few did show up. The last concert that was open to the public was I don’t even know how many years ago. It is hoped that a concert and 2 or 3 silent movies will be put on each year. Let’s see.

kong1911
kong1911 on March 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm

You can now take a video tour of the 4/26 Wurlitzer Organ that is still there on UTube at: http://youtu.be/_PygQbt2ios

LuisV
LuisV on January 30, 2015 at 7:25 am

HUGE Big News! The Brooklyn Paramount is returning to public use as a music venue! Not a lot of details but I’m sure more to come!
http://gothamist.com/2015/01/29/brooklyn_paramount_barclays.php

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on January 30, 2015 at 8:11 am

I don’t want to overstate it, but we’ve been praying for news like this…

tntim
tntim on January 30, 2015 at 9:37 am

Well this news along with the opening of the Kings next week makes me smile from all the way down here in Tennessee!

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 8, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Link to article about a reborn Paramount is here

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 8, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Text of article: (Note: at the link, the last photo is upside down!)

Fort Greene’s Paramount Theatre, which for the past half-century has been used as the Long Island University sports complex, is set to be restored to its mid-20th century glory by a partnership of Barclay Center developer Bruce Ratner and Onexim Sports and Entertainment.

The $50 million renovation is set to take place over the course of two years, and in advance of that the university has released a couple renderings on its Flickr account, as well as a few historical photos.

This trend, led by the Loew’s Kings Theater in Flatbush, of formerly majestic Brooklyn theaters being returned to their original uses and levels of magnificence is definitely one that we can get behind.

Bruce Cassaro
Bruce Cassaro on April 8, 2015 at 11:30 pm

I am thrilled the Paramount wii be restored to a 3500 seat venue with a quality 50 Million Dollar restoration. Brooklyn is the comeback kid. The Paramount and the Kings are among the nations most beautiful theatres. The Paramount has one the worlds great organs and the restored theatre will compliment this treasure. Downtown Brooklyn will have two restored former movie palaces the Paramount and the former loew’s Metropolitan now a church. I love the fact that the Paramount wii restore the vertical and canopy Marquee’s which many restored theatres have failed to do which makes the restoration complete. Wow I’m impressed. brucec

paullewis
paullewis on April 13, 2015 at 2:40 pm

The above article about the Paramount says the restored theatre will have a seating capacity of 1500! This is surely a mistake, how can you reduce the seating from 4.000 to 1.500 without a major alteration to the auditorium?

BobbyS
BobbyS on April 15, 2015 at 8:44 am

I imagine they will leave the main floor as is for people like to stand & scream when they see a rock band or other groups. The balcony of course will have seats. There comes the 1500. Similar to the Congress theatre here in chicago. They can cram more in and put in bars where the real money is pouring in. I might be wrong but this would explain the 4,000 into 1,500. Anyway it sounds so very exciting. Marquee & vertical put back is always a thrill.

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