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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas and Theatres   » Restoring An 'Original' Boston Treasure

   
Author Topic: Restoring An 'Original' Boston Treasure
Daniel Berman
New Member

Posts: 2
From: Brookline, MA
Registered: Mar 2005


 - posted March 13, 2005 01:58 AM      Profile for Daniel Berman   Author's Homepage   Email Daniel Berman         Edit/Delete Post 
The Paramount Cinema of Boston, Massachusetts went from a classic moviehouse to a rundown (basically an unrecognizable) building. Even though, it sits in the heart of the hub it has not been touched for years. Since, Boston suddenly has decided to rebuild the classic marquee but not capitolize and give the theater another chance at life. Can you imagine brining back this moviehouse to the public? I can only sit back, and wonder on all of the events that we can bring to the city of Boston with the restoration of the Paramount Cinema. I only hope this city is planning on bringing back this landmark of film to Boston once again. With the rebuilding of the Paramount can only mean great things for this city and its vast, and recognized community for the arts.

If Boston does decide on taking on this venture won't just restore/encourage Filmmakers, and there films coming back to the Boston area. But, it would send a message to the rest of the world that we are a film town once again!

"I'll see you at the Movies!"

Daniel Berman
http://www.coolidge.org

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Ron Newman
Member

Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted April 19, 2005 07:04 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
Emerson College last week announced plans to redevelop the Paramount into two live stage theatres. Read more about it here:

http://www.cinematreasures.com/theater/24/

See interior photos here

http://www.archboston.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=113

and exterior ones here

http://www.archboston.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=100&start=15

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted April 24, 2005 12:27 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
My friend went back to the hole in the wall of the Paramount and took more photos with a much better camera:

http://www.archboston.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=113
(scroll down to "Posted: Fri Apr 22, 2005 3:06 pm")

Another friend toured the Paramount in 2001 and took these photos:

http://homepage.mac.com/j_morong1/Personal/PhotoAlbum7.html

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William Hooper
Member

Posts: 82
From: Mobile, AL
Registered: Mar 2003


 - posted April 24, 2005 10:58 PM      Profile for William Hooper   Email William Hooper         Edit/Delete Post 
That stage doesn't look very deep! It could be just the angle of the photo with the proscenium disguising the depth of the stage. In some former movie theaters turned PAC's with shallow stages, they've had to do some major remodeling to make a "performance venue" with a sufficiently deep stage - either the trendy demolish-&-build-a-new-stage-house, or moving the proscenium further into the house. The latter doesn't usually work well in balcony houses, for obvious reasons.

It looks like there's a pipe batten let in to about 3' or 4' above the floor, so there's likely a fly tower. Is there?

The large ornamental grille on the ceiling right in front of the prosc looks like an organ grille for an over the proscenium organ installation (as opposed to sides or under the stage). Orchestra pit, fly tower - it has the features which would put it in the era to have a theatre organ as well. When was it built? Did it have another name before it was the Paramount? I wonder if that separated square area on the left of the pit was for an organ console lift.

The footlight trough & fascia have been stripped out. That angled front edge of the stage is the bottom, interior edge of a trough for "flush", i.e., at stage floor height, footlights.

From that page:
quote:
the floor does not appear to be canted at all -- I wonder how people in the back could see anything.
That flat floor has been constructed above the original floor for some reason - was the venue ever used as a club, restaurant, bingo hall or something similar? You can see a space between the front of the "new" floor & the front - the new floor was installed about at the height of the orchestra pit rail. The original floor beneath would have been raked - there was a pretty much standard formula for raking for sightlines based on the level of the stage & the depth of the house.

Somebody (who didn't know what he was doing & was too intent on doing what he liked rather than figuring out what things are for) has removed the radiators from the back of the stage at floor level. Doofuses assume the stage radiators are somehow for the benefit of the performers, & think they'll gain space onstage by pulling out the radiators onstage. Any HVAC person can tell you what they're there for.

Excellent work by your friend who got in & took the pics.

When theaters are redone for PAC's, etc., very often they intentionally take no pictures of the original architecture & decoration, so that the new work can't be compared with the old, questions can't be settled about whether the new work is as "historic" as is claimed, or that historic features & contents were destroyed.

It's great that a number of restorations & repairs are done with the intention of maintaining the building's historic features, even to the point where some have paint analysis, etc., but unfortunately many also are just expressions of some folks' redecorating ideas, & the point is to burn the evidence of what was there before.

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted April 25, 2005 01:33 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
This theatre was built in 1932. It was the last of the downtown Boston movie palaces and the only one built after the advent of movie sound. It's also the only one never to have featured a live performance. For that reason, it has almost no stage, and I'm sure it never had an organ.

It has always been called the Paramount. The Paramount name and seal are literally etched in stone on the front facade!

It has been closed and disused since 1976, but a friend of mine told me that some of it was used as a construction office and staging area for the Millennium-Ritz Carlton Towers project next door.

Much of the interior detail was lost during asbestos removal in the 1980s (for a development project called 'Commonwealth Center' that financially failed before it ever got started.) Emerson plans to subdivide it into two much smaller live theatres, so I expect this to be more of a renovation than a historic restoration.

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Ron Newman
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Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted April 25, 2005 06:23 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
The Boston Redevelopment Authority has issued a press release on this project.

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William Hooper
Member

Posts: 82
From: Mobile, AL
Registered: Mar 2003


 - posted April 25, 2005 11:00 PM      Profile for William Hooper   Email William Hooper         Edit/Delete Post 
The grille over the prosc could be AC, then. The perforations look like they go deeper than the ceiling. 1929-1932 was an awkward time for theater design, as owners were trying to establish what they didn't need with the advent of sound pictures. Given a year or two for the period of actual design, then construction, & it's in that period when some theaters were being built with speculation that some stage (& orchestra) use in big theaters might still be occasionally needed, or just an organ, then as construction began, companies went to a "pictures only" format, reneged on organ contracts leaving buildings with organ chambers but no organ installed. First off the top of my head, the Aurora, IL Paramount (1931, well into the sound era) had a stage, orchestra pit, & a 3/13 Wurlitzer. Radio City Music Hall was one of the last (1932) big theatres to have a theatre organ installed; it has a Wurlitzer, & by then the 2nd largest TO builder, Robert Morton, had pretty much collapsed. (Other builders still hung on if they also manufactured "straight" organs for churches, like Kimball, Moller, Wicks, etc.)

Also in this period of a shift to sound-only & decoration/design shift to deco (which was less ornate & lower cost), if there was an expectation of no stage use, the auditorium was designed around having no orchestra pit. That theatre has a (small) orchestra pit, seeming to indicate that they may have been very conservatively hedging their bets against a need to use a stage (which was vestigial, but still built). That theater is interesting in that it's 1932, has a vestigial stage & orchestra pit. It's more like a smaller 1929 house in a smaller city, but they may have wondered if competition in Boston might make some stage capacity a possible neccessity. It would be interesting to know if there was onstage (usually on the house left side) a lighting panel for stage lighting - the foots, a couple of borders, etc. The foots would probably be expected to double as part of the lighting for the curtain warmer when/if the stage wasn't used.

It's sort of typical of theaters with small stages built in the early sound era as stage use expectation was diminishing that the diminished equipment & design of the stage included no stage trap. Usually the back of the orchestra pit opened into whatever room the trap opened into (when there was one), which may have also doubled as a musicians' room, chorus room, etc. But in these early sound era houses with vestigial stages & pits, there's often no trap, & the back of the pit & below the stage floor is poured concrete instead of a room constructed in an excavated area. That seems to be the case at that theater.

From
http://www.cityofboston.gov/bra/press/PressDisplay.asp?pressID=266
quote:
The interior of the Paramount will be renovated and re-equipped to support theatrical, dance and musical productions. To the largest extent possible, Emerson has pledged to preserve the Paramount Theatre lobby, a commitment evidenced by Emerson’s previous refurbishment projects. Preliminary plans include a main theater with approximately 450 seats, a black-box theater with 125 seats, and support spaces.
Looks like those could be the last photos of the theatre's interior.

quote:
The objective of the city’s long-standing efforts to revive the Paramount is to provide critically needed performance and rehearsal space for Boston’s performing arts community. Emerson’s acquisition and redevelopment of the property will remain true to that goal. Emerson will lead the development and management of the building. Non-profit arts and cultural organizations will explore a “time-share”-style arrangement for those interested in regular use, as well as rentals for occasional users. Several leading performing arts institutions have expressed interest in participating.
Those organizations need to explore where it's been done before. An expectation of constant booking of the space is probably unrealistic. Local performing arts groups typically don't adapt well to the labor, time, & cost-intensive method of professional groups to design, build, &/or rent sets, lighting & costumes for a venue to be rented/used later while rehearsing in another space. In professional theatre, those costs are offset by doing a number of productions at different venues, & the whole company is built around the operation of being a bus & truck company - flexible deisgn, take it to a theatre, take it down, take it to the next place where there's money. If you must do all that rehearsing & construction in other (possibly rented) spaces, then truck it all over to the venue & put it up just for that one, limited run, the costs will eat you up. Usually, spaces constructed with that expectation of use by local groups shakes down to less frequent to even rare local use, & (if the venue acts as its own promoter) shaking the trees for professional bus & truck shows to come in to keep from being dark so much.

Since it's associated with a college, the college may integrate it with its own studies/programming if use by local "performing arts institutions" doesn't turn out to be so hot & heavy. That would also work against rotating use by independent performing arts groups, as they'd have to work around availability issues monopolized by the college.

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Ron Newman
Member

Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted April 26, 2005 05:30 AM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
Emerson College has also issued a couple of press releases:

http://www.emerson.edu/public_affairs/index.cfm?doc_id=155
http://www.emerson.edu/public_affairs/index.cfm?doc_id=213

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