Since 1929 the Paramount Theatre Centre has inspired with its architecture, entertainment, and history. Thanks to local benefactors with an appreciation of history, the beautiful theatre continues to shine as brightly on the outside as the stars do inside.
The Paramount Theatre is one of a few existing atmospheric theatres designed by famed national architect John Eberson. Eberson was the original imaginative creator of the “atmospheric.” His Spanish courtyard design of the Paramount included eclectic ornamentation1, unique statuaries2, a beautiful trellis adorned with floral and ivy, and a magical night sky complete with hundreds of twinkling stars. Not only did the opulent décor of the Paramount distinguish itself from the neighboring theatres, but the 36 foot tall and 69 inches wide Paramount blade marquee became a familiar sight in downtown Anderson.
The Paramount opened on August 20, 1929. The 1,700 seat house featured the musical comedy “The Cocoanuts” that featured the Marx Brothers. The majestic movie palace was short lived as it closed on June 1, 1930 due to the pressures of the Depression. After its closing, the Paramount saw several owners and hard times.
The Paramount reopened on December 27, 1931. The owners, Holycross and McCullough, formed the Anderson Amusement Company, which operated a few other theaters on Meridian Street. On April 1, 1946 the Amusement Company dissolved and turned the theatre over to the Alliance Theatre Corporation. The Paramount faced “dark” days due to poor upkeep, high operating costs, and competition from the invention of the television in the ‘50s. Between 1969 and 1988 the theatre saw several different owners, all of whom were unable to sustain the costs and maintenance of such a grand facility. It fell vacant.
In 1989, the City of Anderson began to accept bids to demolish the facility to make room for a needed parking lot in the downtown area. It was then that a group of community leaders rallied together to save the Paramount Theatre. The group would later form the Paramount Heritage Foundation. With the help of several hundred volunteers manning brooms, mops, buckets, rags, vacuum cleaners, and applying pillow cases over the backs of the remaining 1,500 dirty seats, the theatre was able to reopen once again on August 20, 1989 to the Big Band sounds of the Woody Herman Orchestra.
But there was much work to be done to restore the Paramount to its original beauty. In addition to the theatre there is an additional 18,000 square feet on the adjoining three floors. The 6,000 square foot ballroom located on the third floor had not been used since the ‘40s, but with the maple hardwood floors and original stage, the Paramount Heritage Foundation saw it as an opportunity to utilize the space to generate income. Once again, community volunteers answered the call to help clean the space and it was quickly used for events and parties. The $1.5 million project would open to the community, fully restored with art deco décor3, on August 20, 1994. The opening of the ballroom ahead of the theatre restoration made it possible for revenues to flow and allowed construction to begin on the $3.1 million theatre restoration4. The Paramount Theatre reopened once again on August 20, 1995 to a sell-out crowd. Its stars continue to shine brightly…on the stage and in the glorious night Paramount sky.
VERTICAL MARQUEE BLADE
The original Paramount marquee blade once hung between the two windows of the pavilion over the theatre entrance and rose above the parapet (scalloped or arched brick formation). The marquee had to be removed in the 1970s due to deterioration. In 200? , a generous donor took on the project and funded the reinstallation of a replica of the original marquee. The new marquee stands 43 feet tall and 86 inches, seven feet taller and 17 inches wider than the original. It stands three feet above the previous marquee and rises eight feet above the parapet making it visible four blocks north and five blocks south of Meridian Street. It is a true beacon in downtown Anderson.
- Birds, peacocks, doves, and pheasants were a trademark of Eberson. The detail on the 13 half shells above the stage had the only gold leafing when the theatre opened in 1929.
- The original statues include: HEBE’ – Goddess of Youth – During restoration, community leaders noticed that part of Hebe’s arm was missing. One of the plasterers from Chicago took a cast of his 11-year-old daughter’s arm and made the replacement arm for HEBE’. VENUS de MILO – Goddess of Love; there are only two of this size in the world. MINERVA – Goddess of Victory.
- Project included: installation of an elevator, catering kitchen, restrooms, service bar, coat check, refinished floor, and completely new décor and lighting fixtures.
- Originally there were 1,700 seats. The theatre reopened with 1,458 seats to allow more leg room. The lobby tile is original and made in Anderson by the National Tile Company. The marble steps and brass railings are original. The lobby chandeliers are not original, but designed to represent the 1929 era. The Gift Shop chandelier is the original lobby chandelier.