Don Miller of Dorchester, Massachusetts, sits in a seat at the Paramount Mainstage and soaks everything in. His head is tilted back as he gazes in awe at the elaborate high ceilings. He looks around remembering a time when this theater was new and thriving during the Golden Age of motion pictures.
“Back in the 1940s, I was an usher in this theater when it showed movies,” Miller explained. “It was always dark when I was working, so it’s hard to remember exactly what it looked like back then, but the renovations are really beautiful. It’s really great to enjoy the beauty of this building again.”
On September 23, Miller and numerous other community members attended an open house as part of ArtsEmerson’s opening week of its inaugural season.
Some came to see the renovations Emerson had done. Some came to support the Performing Arts Department. Some came to reminisce over a time when the theater was new. Despite different reasons for attending, all had similar reactions to the Paramount’s transformation: they were impressed.
Karen Wall of Duxbury, Massachusetts, who used to come to the Paramount as a little girl to watch movies, was beaming with excitement over what Emerson had done to the theater.
“I am so amazed by the renovations,” she said. “It is so beautiful and really exceeded any of my expectations. They did a fantastic job.”
“I am so amazed by the renovations. It is so beautiful and really exceeded any of my expectations. They did a fantastic job.”
The Paramount, which opened in 1932 as a 1,500-seat movie theater, was closed in 1976 and fell into disrepair for 20 years. Emerson acquired the building in 2005 and spent close to three years restoring the landmark theater as a 590-seat live performance venue.
Despite the update, many patrons were blown away by how the restored Paramount still captured the essence of the old building. During the rebuilding, Emerson maintained the theater’s art deco influence by using photographs and drawings of the interiors and creating replicas of the original wall murals.
“It’s a lot smaller than it used to be and the seating used to be flat rather than elevated,” explained Mike Corrente from the North End. “But it still reminds me of the theater I remember as a kid.”
While the building transformation brought the biggest reaction from the crowd, a few were appreciative toward Emerson for opening its doors to the public.
“I think it’s great that Emerson is making the opening of the Paramount a community event,” added Wall. “This landmark theater used to serve thousands in Boston, and the fact that Emerson is giving us the opportunity to see this theater alive again is such a wonderful experience.”
ArtsEmerson will continue its opening weekend celebration through Sunday, September 26. The public is welcome to enjoy open house hours on Friday 4:00 – 6:00 pm, Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Sunday 1:00 – 7:00 pm.
Pictured above: Fraulein Maria Directors Michael Preston and Barbara Karger (on the ends) with the show’s creator and choreographer Doug Elkins (black hat), and Executive Director of ArtsEmerson Rob Orchard.