Paramount Theatre

76 Broadway,
Newport, RI 02840

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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 5, 2017 at 10:00 am

This theatre appears to be almost identical to Woonsocket’s Stadium Theatre, which fortunately has been preserved and is in current use.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 17, 2015 at 11:07 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the M-G-M Theatre Report for the Paramount, it’s Card # 529. The address is “Broadway”. There is an exterior photo dated May 1941. The condition is Good. It says it was built in 1933, and is showing MGM product. There were 705 orchestra seats, and 507 balcony seats, total 1,212.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 4, 2010 at 7:32 am

The Paramount Theatre reopened with the moved-over staff and management of the Colonial Theatre in 1940, with the Colonial closing for good and becoming a Newberry store. This was reported by Boxoffice magazine in its issue of April 27, 1940.

“E. M. Loew circuit took over operation of the Paramount, Newport, with manager Gerald G. Wagner and his entire staff at the Colonial moving to the Paramount. Colonial, occupied by Loew for the past two years has been sold to Miss Ruth L. Weiss of Boston and is scheduled to be torn down and replaced with a new $45,000 store for J. J. Newberry Co. According to Wagner, the same policy maintained at the Colonial will be continued at the Paramount; dual subsequent run features with added vaudeville on Sundays.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 23, 2010 at 4:01 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, May 18, 1946:

Increased Staff Reopens Paramount in Newport
NEWPORT, R.I. – After being closed for renovation and redecorating, the Paramount has reopened under its new lessee, the Zeitz Theatres of Rhode Island. It has a continuous run from 1 to 11 p.m. withh three changes of program a week. The other two theatres [Strand and Opera House] of the city run continuously only on weekends with two changes a week.

The Paramount lobby and marquee have been painted. The latter is now lighted with 2,000 lamps. The foyer has been recarpeted. New projecting machines have been installed and the booth has been refitted. The lobby and foyer have new display boards with mirror frames.

Joseph Viera of Fall River, Mass., has been appointed manager and is being assisted at present by Carl Zeitz from the home office of the new operating company in New Bedford, Mass. Richard Stevenson is doorman. Fred Lewis, operator ever since the theatre was built, still is there with three assistants, two more than previously; Barbara Harel (?) and Geraldine Carrigan (?) are the new cashiers, June Flohr (?), Dolores Johnson, Dorothy Oakham and Catherine Smith are usherettes.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2010 at 3:46 am

Theatre for sale, item in Boxoffice magazine, July 10, 1961:

“The Paramount Theatre building in Newport went on the auction block July 8, when the movie house, described as fully equipped and ready to operate, was offered for sale. It has a seating capacity of 1,200. The 22,987 square-foot property also includes five income-producing stores in the building, located at 70-80 Broadway.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 21, 2010 at 9:45 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, November 28, 1942:

“Manager Jerry Wagner of the Paramount, Newport, took Lester the Great’s magic show to the naval training base for a special show armistice eve. The mysteryman did big business with his 11 p.m. performance at the Paramount the following night, a blindfold drive through Newport streets at noon that day proving an effective publicity stunt.”

333mwv
333mwv on November 13, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Hello Gerald….I just wanted to thank you for the walk down memory lane. I grew up in Newport in the 50’s and remember going to the Paramount Theatre when I was little. And later as a teenager having a job at Cote’s Pharmacy right next door But it had closed by then and was vacant. Even then I was impressed with it’s beauty.It will always hold great memories for me. I do still visit it often as my mother has lived in the Paramount Building since it opened. She and my Dad were two of it’s first residents. Thanks again for the journey. N Brothers

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on July 22, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Thank you, Gerald! My family & I joined the Preservation Society of Newport, and visited several prestigious mansions. We also toured the quaint Colonial streets, and the wharves. We were astonished! It’s a great obstacle to preserve sites in NYC lately. I will further explore Newport’s preservation strategies.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 22, 2007 at 3:21 am

NativeForestHiller,
A good deal is being done. I cannot provide you with much in the way of figures or statistics, though it is clearly my observation in walking around the city a lot. I don’t live in Newport. I come from another part of RI and like to go there often, especially by ferry from Providence during the warm months. A good deal of the area called The Point, with its historic little houses, owes its survival to the efforts of the late Doris Duke (whose mansion Roughpoint is now open to the public). The Preservation Society of Newport might be of some assistance in learning about these issues if you were to connect with them.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on July 22, 2007 at 2:41 am

Thank you, Gerald, for your prompt reply! I live in NY & just returned from Newport. I would be interested in learning more about measures taken to preserve the character of Newport, in terms of its architectural history. Would you know how much of Newport is an official historic district?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 22, 2007 at 2:28 am

The conversion was done in the early 1980s, I believe.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on July 21, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Utilizing portions of the Paramount facade, and converting it into an apartment building, must have stirred up a controversy at the time. I would consider it an insult to Newport history & theater fans. This has to be one of Newport’s eyesores, which are few & far between. When was the conversion done? :(

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on February 19, 2007 at 1:42 pm

What do you do with a drunken sailor…

3/14/58 – A 19-year-old sailor charged by police with breaking glass in the Paramount Theater ticket booth early this morning will be arraigned in District Court on a malicious mischief charge. Patrolman Thornton B. Drummond Jr., who heard glass breaking, found the youth in front of the theater. He admitted breaking the glass, police said. He was turned over to the shore patrol to appear in court later. Police declined to reveal the man’s name until he is arraigned.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 30, 2006 at 1:29 am

The 1949 Film Daily Yearbook gave the seating capacity of the Paramount as 1,150.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 23, 2005 at 2:22 pm

The Paramount became the E.M. Loew’s Paramount on Sunday, April 21, 1940. An ad in the Newport Daily News on April 15, 1940 said that on Sunday, April 21 “the Colonial Theatre, with its entire staff, moves to the new E.M. Loew’s Paramount on Broadway.” The theatre had been shut down for a while before the re-opening, probably for some improvements. The first program under this new aegis was Invisible Stripes and Remember the Night.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 6, 2005 at 10:30 am

And a post-closing photo here., possibly from the 1960s.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 6, 2005 at 1:00 am

Here are two low-quality photos of the Paramount at the time of its opening in 1929:
EXTERIOR
INTERIOR

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2005 at 11:31 am

A couple of tidbits about the Paramount follow. The gentleman at the Newport Historical Society told me that on the opening day (August 10, 1929) one of the patrons was Gladys Szechenyi, the grand-daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who had the great mansion “The Breakers” built. In later years she came to the Society to find out what had been playing on that day. It was Charming Sinners with Ruth Chatterton.

The Paramount closed at the end of April, 1961. Its last shows were either on Saturday, April 29, or Sunday, April 30. The last newspaper ad in the Newport Daily News appeared on that Saturday. The paper was not published on Sunday. No ad appeared on Monday or in succeeding weeks and months. The last film was The Absent-Minded Professsor with Fred MacMurray and Nancy Olson. It played along with the Disney short Islands of the Sea.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 11, 2005 at 9:53 am

When the Paramount building was constructed, it included a business block for retailers on either side of the theatre entrance. Among the businesses that were opened to coincide with the theatre’s inauguration were the Belmont Delicatessen and the Palace of Sweets. The Newport Daily News reported on the deli as selling, among other items, “Italian biscotti, which are quite a delicacy.” Also in the block was First National Stores. An ad for it proclaimed “New Meat Market and Groceries in Paramount Block, 82 Broadway, extends its greeting to Paramount Theatre…Highest Quality Meats.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 11, 2005 at 2:23 am

The Paramount Theatre, across from Newport City Hall, opened to great fanfare on August 10, 1929, after the beginning of the sound era. The theatre was the finest and most elegant that the resort-colony city of Newport had ever seen and the only theatre that was ever built in this city-by-the-sea, from ground up, with the specific goal of showing motion pictures. It was also the last movie theatre ever built within Newport’s city limits. The opening program for “A New Institution – The New Paramount – a Publix Theatre,” as the opening day ad in the Newport Daily News described the place, was “Charming Sinners” with Ruth Chatterton and Clive Brooks. Admission prices ranged from 25 cents to 50 cents for adults. For children it was 10 cents.

The newspaper ran page after page of stories and photos about every aspect of the theatre, and Newporters hailed it with great pride. “CROWDS STORM THE NEW THEATRE DOORS, ADMIRE LOBBY, FOYERS, LOUNGES AND MAIN AUDITORIUM,” read the headline. The article continued, “ From the cross aisle people looked in admiration down into the body of the house, with its towering walls, muralled in panels combining the modernistic and Oriental touch, until the eye meets the two great grills banking the stage, and then paused on the blue and gold drapery of the entertainment focus. Turning, the eye traveled the dim heights of buff velour upholstering on the tiers of seats, paused for a moment on the back wall with its vertical and horizontal openings fromn the projection chamber, and then swept across the ceiling, where flower electric figures shed their soft glow.”

“Suddenly the lights dimmed, and with a rush of sound the current flowed through the transmitters and a burst of music swept the house, from the Western Electric reproducer focused behind trhe movie screen. Playing from records, the mechanism handled the interlude, while the throng packed the more than 1200 seats. Then slowly the curtains parted on the stage, and the huge silver curtain came into view, the tempo changed, and in a blue illumination the greetings of the management were extended to patrons.”

Other articles detailed the standards for and training of ushers and other staff, extolled the latest-technology refrigeration, gave a catalog of details on the “modernistic trend” of decor incorporated into the theatre, gave background on Paramount Pictures, on Newporter David J. Dugan, who was the Paramount’s resident manager. A piece praised the “New Theatre Parking Garage,” adjacent to the building. An ad asserted it could house forty cars!

The photos of the theatre included shots of the marquee and entrance, the ticket booth, two views of the auditorium, the foyer, the projection both.

I never had the good fortune to be inside this theatre. Although a Rhode Islander, I am not from Newport, and the theatre closed by the early 1960s, perhaps earlier…more research on this to come. I do remember seeing the marquee of the shuttered buiklding when I was still in my teens and visiting Newport in that same decade. Good quality photographs of the theatre, originally belonging to the Newport Daily News, were donated to and are now in the possession of the Newport Historical Society and examples may appear on this site in coming weeks and months. The ones reproduced in the opening-day article reveal a theatre which, to my eye, very closely resembled the Stadium in Woonscocket (happily restored and preserved, unlike the doomed Paramount which became gutted in the 1980s and now serves as a low-housing unit.) There was no balcony, but the rear of the theatre, beneath the projection booth, featured a large section with stadium seating. The theatre had an open exterior entranceway, just beyond the marquee and leading to the doors to the lobby. The entranceway and free-standing ticket-booth also resembled those of the Woonsocket Stadium.

While I was thrilled to find so much information (there is lots more than I report here), I was very saddened that this lovely mid-size theatre of elegance would cease to exist not much later than thirty years after its construction. Newport has done a great deal to preserve its past heritage, from mansions on Bellevue Avenue to small homes in historic neighborhoods of great character. It has saved two movie theatres: the Jane Pickens (Strand) and the Opera House, whose exterior has been brought back to something resembling its 19th Century glory while awaiting interior restoration to a single auditorium. Those two theatres are this week hosting the Newport International Film Festival. Too bad the Paramount, the greatest of the lot, did not have the same destiny. Imagine the many uses the place might have today! Because of its substantial size, it could have accomodated touring Broadway shows, popular entertainment acts, could have been used during the popular Newport Music Festival for performances by large ensembles and popular artists throughout the year. The city is heavily visited and not just during the summer tourist season.

One can only dream.

This opening day ad appeared in the Newport Daily News in 1929.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 3, 2005 at 4:08 am

Gerald,
I agree with you. Must have been a mis-print in the F.D.Y. Thanks for clearing this up.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 2, 2005 at 7:21 pm

Ken, the Newport city directories I checked today from the 30s and 40s all list it as 76 Broadway, and the number on the apartment building itself is also 76. Why would it go from 76 to 22 and then back to 76? 22 would bring you near Washington Square, but the Paramount is a bit further up. 76 Broadway was also the office of the Shea’s theatre chain. Must have been in the theatre.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 2, 2005 at 4:50 pm

Gerald;
The Film Daily Yearbook, 1950 gives the address as 22 Broadway, Newport, RI. Has there been a re-numbering of the street?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 2, 2005 at 4:17 pm

Contrary to what I wrote above and much to my surprise, I discovered today that the Paramount was NOT demolished. It was merely gutted (if that makes us happy) and converted to a HUD apartment building. Here are photos of the building at 76 Broadway:

The first photo shows the right side of the former theatre and its scenery tower from the days of vaudeville.

The second photo shows the left side. If you look closely you can see how the windows were cut out of the side of the brick building because of the difference in color in the grouting between the bricks.

The third photo shows the entrance to the apartment building, set back, with a kind of patio replacing the original theatre entrance and lobby.

The fourth photo shows newer brick contrasting with older brick as you move up toward the roof.

I had been frequenting the Salvation Army Thrift Shop at the rear of the building for years, including today, without realizing that this was the old Paramount Theatre of Newport! How could I be so unperceptive??? I never actually set foot in the Paramount, but remember seeing its marquee during my teen years.
I would kill to see any surviving photos of the old theatre entrance or the interior.