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A history of the Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre was a famous cinema which has become a landmark building in Times Square, New York City. Also a noted venue for live performance, it is now an office and commercial building. It was also known for having one of the largest ever Wurlitzer theatre organs in the world providing music during the silent film era.

Early history

The Paramount Theatre opened as a cinema in 1926, solely showing films until the dawn of the 'swing' era saw them begin hosting live bands in 1935. This saw its profits rise considerably, as famous names such as Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller graced its stage for extended runs during this era. 'Dowager Empress' The famous Wurlizer organ which accompanied the Paramount's showing of films was nicknamed the 'Dowager Empress', it was made up of 36 ranks and contained
33 tons of wooden pipes and metal components. It was moved to a convention hall in Kansas in 1968. Noted pianist Jesse Crawford was the venue's organist from 1926 until 1933. Huge acts such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and comedian Jerry Lewis played extended runs at the Paramount.


During the 1950s, the venue became famous for its rock'n'roll shows, presented by Alan Freed, and Buddy Holly and the Crickets performed 'Peggy Sue' there, after the iconic song had become a massive American hit. The Paramount was also the venue for the world première of Elvis Presley's debut movie 'Love Me Tender'. Thousands of hysterical fans of the singer turned up at the venue on the night of the première, while there was also a huge cardboard cut-out of Presley decorating the venue. The theatre was closed in 1964, with 'The Carpetbaggers' its final film feature. The interior of the building was gutted and refurbished into retail space for the New York Times. A hard rock café now occupies a replica of the famous arch and marquee at the theatre's entrance.

Other theatres with the same name

There are also Paramount theatres currently operating in several other US cities. There have been two other particularly noteworthy theatres in New York City with the name, one at Madison Square Garden and one in Brooklyn. The Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, was a renowned venue for vaudeville acts, and continues, with its status as a Registered Historic Place, to show movies to this day. The Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington State, is a venue with almost
3000 seats, used primarily as a performing arts venue. This theatre is also on the Register of historic places.

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