by Staff Reports
The opulence of the theatre shines through the moment you enter. Built in the 1920s by J.E. Richards and Harry Nacy, whose chain of 18 theaters included the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix, this building was a gem that called Casa Grande home, according to the theatre’s brochure. From the towering curved ceiling to the hand-painted columns, plaster niches and rich velvet drapes, the original Egyptian Revival architecture is breathtaking. The ceilings are slightly domed, specially designed to enhance the sound distribution throughout the theatre and decorated with huge custom medallions that resemble peacock tails. The acoustics in the building are said to rival Carnegie Hall.
The grand opening took place with a Grand Gala on December 24, 1929, featuring the “talking” movie, “The Trespasser,” starring Gloria Swanson. Sadly, the theater did not survive the Great Depression and closed in 1939. Over the years and several owners later, the last movie was shown on the silver screen in 1992. By that time, the building had fallen into a state of disrepair and much of the original architectural elements were either damaged or destroyed.
In 1993, the building was purchased at a tax auction by the current owner, Deborah Martin. At this time the building was in danger of demolition. Martin worked with the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office to restore the building to its former glory. In 1999, the Paramount was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The phase 1 restoration also won numerous awards for the restoration of the marquee, store fronts and ticket booth.
Phase two began in 2000 to repair the damaged interior of the main theater, including main auditorium, balcony, under stage dressing rooms and projection room. Much of the original, antique projection equipment is still in place. The plaster ornamentals, peacock tail medallions and Egyptian paintings were all painstakingly restored. The Paramount once again opened in all of its splendor in 2003.
Since then the theater has been open for both private and public events including theater, concerts, recitals and private parties such as weddings, anniversaries and fundraising dinners.
The Paramount Foundation of Central Arizona Inc is a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit organization established to ensure the historic Paramount Theater remains an artistic focal point and a community cultural center for Casa Grande and Pinal County. The foundation has also provided, through the Paramount Fine Arts Academy entertainment, fine arts and educational programs for individuals and groups of all ages to enjoy. To learn more, visit paramountfoundation.org
EDITORS NOTE: As a teen, I remember seeing the new release of Star Wars in this theater in 1977.