The Paramount Theatre – "Show Divine at 9th and Pine"
Seattle's Paramount Theatre has enjoyed a long and storied history, beginning with its grand opening as the Seattle Theatre in March of 1928. Residents and visitors alike have been entertained at the magnificent theatre and millions have delighted in the theatre's architectural majesty, viewed countless films, and enjoyed thousands of performers from all corners of the globe.
Seattle's Most Opulent Movie Palace
During the “Roaring Twenties,” particularly before the first “talkies” were invented in 1927, vaudeville and silent movies were the dominant form of national and local entertainment. Seattle alone had more than 50 movie palaces, the finest grouped together on 2nd Avenue.
On March 1, 1928, the Seattle Theatre opened. The Seattle Times heralded the occasion with enthusiasm:
Never has such a magnificent cathedral of entertainment been given over to the public. Indescribable beauty! Incomparable art! The stage productions will be of the most lavish design, brilliant in their lighting effects and gorgeous in their settings.
The grand opening was a huge success, garnering in an era of silent films, ‘talkies’ and even surviving The Great Depression to entertain all of Seattle. Fast-forward over 85 years later, and Seattle’s Paramount Theatre has undergone many transformations over the decades, from opulent silent movie palace, to vaudevillian performance hall, Cinerama format movie house, Broadway theatre performances and rock, soul and jazz concerts.
A New Era for The Paramount
After years of financial difficulty throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, determined to restore the theatre to its former glory, Ida Cole, a former Microsoft vice-president, purchased the theatre and re-established the non-profit Seattle Landmark Association (now Seattle Theatre Group). An 8-month renovation included a stage expansion, plaster and gold leaf restoration, chandelier cleaning, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and extension of the back wall to accommodate new load-in, new dressing rooms, and increased electrical capacity.
In March of 1995, The Paramount re-opened to become, as Ida put it, a “kissable” building, where “everyone was welcome and felt comfortable; the people’s theatre.” Miss Saigon was the first presentation, celebrating the return of Broadway to the theatre. Later, a convertible seating system would be installed in the main auditorium to accommodate more contemporary uses such as runway, corporate events, and large general admission concerts.
In 2002, Ida Cole transferred ownership of The Paramount to the non-profit Seattle Theatre Group (STG), the new name for the Seattle Landmark Association.
The Paramount Theatre Today
The Paramount is a thriving landmark theatre. An annual season of KeyBank Broadway at The Paramount season accompanies a performance series of dance, jazz, live concerts, speakers, comedy, special events, and family shows. The Trader Joe’s Silent Film® Series draws thousands to experience a taste of the past accompanied by the original Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. A Theatre Access Program grants tickets to individuals and organizations without the means to attend theatre, and robust Education and Community Programs provide vital professional arts interactions for young and emerging artists.
Photo Credit: Bob Cerelli 2014
Continuing to serve the original vision that Ida Cole had for The Paramount, the Seattle Theatre Group has continued stewardship of the theatre. Additionally, STG operates and maintains the historic Moore and Neptune Theatres.
Photo Credit: Bob Cerelli 2014
A complete history of The Paramount Theatre can be found in a recently completed book entitled, Seattle’s Paramount Theatre – From Birth to Rebirth and Beyond, by author and historian M. Lynn Thrasher. The timeline historic journey is 158 pages of colorful and graphic accounts of the theatre dating back to early Seattle and up to current times. You can also visit the Historic Theatres Library located in the Paramount Theatre Tower at 911 Pine Street, open Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 AM to 3 PM.