The Paramount Theatre
The Paramount Theatre opened on September 14, 1929 as Austin’s first run movie theatre with a great parade. Telegrams were sent out throughout the town to announce the opening. The Paramount was built as an atmospheric theatre – which means that when you enter you are transported to a different time and place. Imagine a quaint Spanish Villa under the stars of a twilight blue sky. Imagine reds, burnt oranges, maroons, deep greens. This is the only one of four in the state of Minnesota and the only one outside of the Twin Cities to be used as originally intended.
In 1929, movie tickets were 10 cents for children and 50 cents for adults. Originally there were 914 seats, current seating is 622. During restoration, we decided to give audience members a little more room on the main floor. People back then were quite a bit smaller. Going to the movies was the thing to do and the balcony was the place to sit.
With the popularity of television and mall theatres, the Paramount closed in 1975. The last movie shown was The Godfather Part II. Over the next 10 years, it was transposed into various bars like "The Theatre" and "Snickerz Comedy Club".
In 1985, the Paramount was placed on the national register of historic places. In 1987, Austin Area Commission for the Arts was formed to restore it to its 1929 glory. A lot of work went into restoring this theatre. Through the help of the Minnesota Historical Society and generous donors, we have been able to accomplish many projects. Many volunteer hours went into fixing plaster, brickwork, replacing seats and repainting the inside.
The ceilings were painted black, red and yellow during the bar era. John Durfey, local artist recovered the original stencil patterns and colors, and had to go layer by layer with special solvents and at times using q-tips to find them. You’ll find figures of dogs, winged creatures along with different Spanish designs. It took him close to three years to unearth the original designs and to repaint them. This was mainly because we didn’t have heat in the beginning and he could only paint during the warmer weather. It was all worth it, it is truly beautiful!
The local Matchbox Children’s theatre calls this their home. We are used for business events and meetings, for tours and local theatre productions. We take pride in the local talent found in Austin. Funding of this restoration has come from the community, grants and other fundraising events. We just restored the front entry doors last spring. With the help of pictures of the original we were able to get really close and we were able to make them more efficient. We completed the exterior restoration the summer of 2007– replacing the stone spire at the top of the building. This spire was hit by lightening and instead of replacing it – they just leveled it off with cement. It has been that way since the mid 40’s.Now that this is completed, our plans are to expand. We would like to have handicapped accessibility to the stage, more office space and a way for performers to get to the stage without going outside or through the audience.