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!

Contributed by Ken Roe, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 256 comments)

kong1911
kong1911 on March 20, 2012 at 6:12 am

To Adam S, there is one photo some place on the internet which does show a small piece of the first mezzanine. It was in Life magazzine right after the first conversion. The photo shows a student jumping over a gym horse and you can just make out part of the mezz. You’ll have to do a web. search to find it. It’s the only photo I ever saw which has the mezz. in it.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 2, 2012 at 6:25 am

Here’s a link to that Life Magazine issue. When you open it, just close the pop-up that asks about membership. The photo of the Paramount is on page 60, but the article (on classic movie palaces) begins on page 56. There’s a text box below the date of the magazine (which is February 19, 1971) where you can type the page # and hit “enter” on your keyboard.

kong1911
kong1911 on April 2, 2012 at 8:08 am

Here is a link to a larger photo.
http://gothamist.com/2011/07/15/flashback_the_paramount_theater_in.php#photo-21

kong1911
kong1911 on October 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Here’s some news!! The New York Theatre Organ Society will present the 1925 Horror Movie Classic “The Phantom of the Opera” Starring Lon Chaney at the Brooklyn Paramount on Sunday, October 28th 2012 at 3PM. The Brooklyn Paramount Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ will be played with the movie. General Admission will be $10.00. $8.00 for Seniors.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

My hunch is that the Paramount will not be restored anytime soon. I think the University will probably continue using it for a variety of purposes. Even if they have a new gymnasium for official basketball games, this one can have other uses. When I was at U. of Illinois in Champaign there were several gyms around campus which were used for all sorts of things.

Aside from the fact that I believe the building is still viable for LIU, unless the Trustees are blind they must be aware of the growing likelihood of the Loews Kings restoration. They must also be aware of the Bronx Paradise recently being leased to a church. While these are not the only considerations with regard to restoration, any governing body with the capacity for thoughtful decision would have to take these things into account.

kong1911
kong1911 on December 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Maybe not anytime soon but you can still come and hear the mighty Wurlitzer roar. An organ concert is being planned for the middle of February. More details latter.

kong1911
kong1911 on January 25, 2013 at 11:21 am

Do you want to hear the Mighty Wurlitzer at LIU Brooklyn, (The Brooklyn Paramount)? On Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 7:00 P.M. An evening of pops, show tues, and light classical will be performed by Theatre Organist Jelani Eddington. For more information go to www.nytos.org

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on January 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm

This sounds like fun. Can anyone here report on earlier organ recitals at this theater?

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

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