Explore the History of Middletown’s Paramount Theatre

July 29th, 2016 by

Middletown is home to some of New York’s most important cultural landmarks, including the Paramount Theatre. First opened on June 12th, 1930, it was named to the State & National Register of Historic Places in 2002, and it continues to be a source of pride and well as entertainment to people across the city.

The History of the Paramount Theatre

Paramount theatre stage

Image courtesy of Paramount Theatre

On Wednesday June 11, 1930, Middletown Mayor Clarence Van Fleet threw the switch that illuminated the huge electric sign over the brand-new Paramount Theatre. The next day saw a noon parade, and then the doors were opened to Middletown residents for the first time. They enjoyed an on-screen welcome by Buddy Rogers, one of the most famous names of the day, a musical selection by the Paramount Symphony Orchestra, a Paramount News Short, a feature on Middletown itself, and, finally, The Big Pond, starring Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert.

The theatre was designed by architects C.W. Rapp and George L. Rapp, and it provides a wonderful example of the Art Deco styling that has come to define the 1930s. It remained under Paramount control until March 30, 1973. Since then, it has come under the ownership of the City of Middletown and then to the Arts Council of Orange County, who restored the venue as a performing arts center in September 1985.

The theatre continues to attract attention, and has become the new home of the Hoboken Film Festival ever since Kenneth DelVecchio bought the festival to Middletown in June of 2013.

Visiting the Paramount Theatre: Then and Now

When Middletown residents first decided to pay a visit to the Paramount Theatre back in 1930, they’d have been greeted by a staff of 20 ushers, doormen, porters, pages, maids, and cashiers. The auditorium itself was designed for talking pictures, so it offered a shallow stage for the time. Visitors would have been attracted on hot days by the promise of a seventy-two-degree interior temperature, which was maintained by circulating air across large cakes of ice.

Things have changed a lot since 1929, but the Paramount Theatre has retained much of what made it special almost 100 years ago. Most notably, it still holds a Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ. These once provided the musical accompaniment to pictures before the advent of sound movies displaced silent films, but the Paramount still has one.

The pipe organ might not play to the sound of silent movies any longer, but today’s visitors can still view classic films, first-run movies, and live national and local entertainment at the Paramount Theatre. From symphony orchestra to Las Vegas comedians, you’ll still find the best showcased right here in town.

The Paramount Theatre is One of Middletown’s Top Cultural Landmarks

The city of Middletown is steeped in cultural history, but the Paramount Theatre remains one of its gems. We encourage everybody to check it out.

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