Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington is a 2,807-seat performing arts venue at 9th Avenue and Pine Street in Downtown Seattle in the United States of America. The theater originally opened March 1, 1928 as the Seattle Theatre with 3,000 seats, the theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 9, 1974. It is also an official City of Seattle landmark.

The theatre was designed by the Chicago-based firm of Rapp & Rapp, with Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca collaborating. It was renamed the Paramount in the 1940s.

The Paramount was built expressly for showing film and secondarily, vaudeville. As of 2009, the Paramount is currently operated as a performing arts venue, serving a diverse patron base that attends Broadway theatre, concerts, dance, comedy, family engagements, silent film and jazz. It is considered to be one of the busiest theatres in the region.

It is currently owned and operated by the Seattle Theatre Group, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit performing arts organization, which also runs the 1,419-seat Moore Theatre in Belltown.

During the âRoaring Twenties,â particularly before the first âtalkiesâ 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.

To achieve the broadest possible distribution of its films, Hollywood-based Paramount Pictures constructed a grand movie palace in practically every major city in the country, many erected between 1926 and 1928. In late 1926 or early 1927, Paramount Pictures decided to build in Seattle.

Led by its president, Hungarian-born movie magnate Adolph Zukor, Paramount Pictures invested the nearly $3 million required for construction. It hired Cornelius W. and George L. Rapp, brothers who owned a Chicago-based architectural firm that built theatres around the country, to design the theatre building. Scottish-born Seattle resident Benjamin Marcus âUncle Bennyâ Priteca, Americaâs most celebrated architect of movie palaces in the 1920s, designed the buildingâs adjacent apartments and office suites.

The Rapp brothers began with a substantial handicap: the land for the new theatre was situated on 9th Avenue, blocks from the center of Seattleâs theatre district, and the land was no more than a ravine with a creek flowing to nearby Lake Union. After filling in the land, Paramount Pictures compensated for its new theatreâs remote location by building the largest, most spectacular, most opulent movie palace Seattle had ever seen. 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.

ALL SEATTLE WILL BE THERE! Show divine at 9th and Pine ... an acre of seats in a palace of splendor. Itâs yours ... youâll love it ... Everybodyâs welcome, everybodyâs wanted ... Every Washingtonian will be proud of its stately magnificence, its gorgeous decorations, its spacious foyers, its wide aisles, its commodious seats, its symphony of lights. See the Mammoth Show! In all the World no place like this!

Eager customers responded on opening night, lining up eight abreast outside The Seattle. After paying the 50 cent admission fee, they entered the grand lobby. There patrons encountered a lavish interior decorated in the Beaux Arts (also called French Renaissance) style of the palace in Versailles. They were awed by the four-tiered lobby, French baroque plaster moldings, gold-leaf encrusted wall medallions, rich paint colors, beaded chandeliers, and lacy ironwork. Their feet sank into hand-loomed French carpeting as they walked past walls adorned with delicate tapestries and original paintings in gilded frames. Heavy, expensive draperies fell at the windows, and hand-carved furniture upholstered in the finest fabrics lined the first-floor lobby.

Before entering the auditorium, customers were entertained by the rare gold and ivory Knabe Ampico grand player piano in the lounge area just above the foyer.

Patrons were escorted to their places in the nearly 4,000 seat auditorium by what the program booklet praised as an âalert, tactful, well trainedâ corps of ushers who provided âcourteous, unostentatious service.â The program promised âno fuss, no senseless genuflections, but . . . welcome, quiet, considerate and alert attention on the part of each of these ushers â in other words, a gracious host making you feel that his home is yours, suavely, expeditiously, sincerely and without affectation.â

The Paramount Theatre is also the first venue in the United States to have a convertible floor system, which converts the theater to a ballroom.

The Paramount Theatre has an original installation Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ. Dennis James served as the final appointed house organist of Seattle's Paramount Theatre from 1999 to August, 2008.

As of 2009, the Paramount has a new sign out front. The 1940s Paramount sign originally used 1,970 incandescent bulbs, which were eventually replaced by 11-watt fluorescents. The new sign is a replica of that iconic sign, but uses LED lights.

Notable performances

The Grateful Dead's performance, on July 21, 1972, were recorded and later released as a live album, entitled Download Series Volume 10.

Madonna performed her first concerts here, kicking off The Virgin Tour, at the Paramount in 1985, to three sold-out crowds.

Scenes from Nirvana's 1992 video for their single "Lithium," were filmed at the Paramount Theatre. Several songs from the same performance have been officially released by Nirvana, including the songs "About a Girl", "Polly" and "Breed" which were included on the home video Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!, released in 1994. Also the song "Negative Creep" from the same live performance was released on the Nirvana live album From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah in 1996. Nirvana's performance of "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam," from the same show was released on the 2004 box set, With the Lights Out.

Soundgarden's 1992 homevideo, Motorvision, was filmed at the Paramount Theatre.

Heart filmed their concert DVD Heart: Alive In Seattle August 8, 2002 at the Paramount Theatre. Heart: Alive In Seattle went certifiable platinum by the RIAA.


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