Paramount Theatre, Seattle – A Historical Treasure

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I love going to the Paramount Theater Seattle to see a show! Although you don’t just see a show at the Paramount Theater – you “experience” one! This is one of those grand cinemas built back in the 1910s through the 1920s known as “movie palaces.”

Built by Paramount Pictures, it was the largest, most spectacular movie palace Seattle had ever seen. It was designed and lavishly decorated in the French Renaissance style of the palace in Versailles. Although built for silent pictures and vaudeville, today you can see a wide variety of shows thanks to an expansion and overhaul of the theater in 1994.

The Paramount Theater Seattle hosts six performance series: .

Silent Movies
Broadway Shows

Hits from Broadway usually play here in Seattle at the 5th Avenue Theater or at the Paramount. Seattle is a major city for Broadway shows. We are also a popular place for Broadway previews. A preview of a new production will usually take place out of town before it reaches the Broadway stage in New York. If you are planning a trip to Seattle and enjoy Broadway shows, be sure to check out what’s going to be showing while you are here.

Tour the Paramount:

Volunteers from the Seattle Theater Group, which owns and operates the Paramount Theater Seattle, offers tours of the theater on the first Saturday of every month. If you can do the tour, I highly recommend it. It’s free, fun, and very interesting! Depending on what’s happening in the theater at the time, you get to see areas of the building that you would never see otherwise. On one of the tours I took, we got to walk across the stage as crews were preparing for an India Arie concert that was opening that night.

The hallways and stairways back stage are lined with posters from past shows. These are covered with autographs of the show cast. There are dozens and dozens of them going back for years – “Chicago,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Lion King,” “A Chorus Line,” just to name a few. It’s like the Paramount’s own Hall of Fame!

A little Paramount Theater Seattle history…

The Paramount Theater opened in 1928 as the Seattle Theatre, a movie palace designed to show silent movies and vaudeville shows. During the Depression it closed for a year and a half due to hard times. As vaudeville diminished, the Paramount remains a popular venue for first-run full length movies. Live shows continued to play but became fewer and farther between during the 1950s.

As more and more suburban theaters were built, audiences at the Paramount Theater Seattle dwindled and most of the movies shown were second-run. It closed during long periods of time during the 1960s. On one Friday night in 1967 only 13 people showed up to see Gone With the Wind.

In the 1970s the Paramount became a popular venue for rock and jazz concerts. The Guess Who, Alice Cooper, Kiss to name a few. Rock bands and fans were hard on the theatre, however. The owners failed to maintain the building and it fell into disrepair.

In the mid 1980s, the theater changed owners again. Some cleaning and repair was done. The variety of acts was broadened to include many kinds of music. The Grand Ole Opry, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Frank Sinatra, and the Grateful Dead all appeared at the Paramount. Musicals such as “South Pacific” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” came to the Paramount. Oprah Winfrey spoke, Mr. Rogers performed, a Star Trek convention was hosted, and Madonna made her first stop on her first world tour in 1985 at the Paramount Seattle.

Despite all this the building continued to deteriorate and fall deeper in debt. Finally the grand movie palace was saved in 1993 when Ida Cole, a Microsoft vice-president, stepped in. She bought the Paramount and began planning a major overhaul of the facility. Workers removed the entire back wall and expanded the stage so that it could accommodate more complex productions. Painters and plasterers removed layers of grime, replaced gold leaf, and painted. State-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment were installed. New dressing rooms were built including the new stars’ room.

In October, 2009, the blue and gold neon vertical Paramount sign, which has hung on the theater since March 1930, was replaced with a new sign. The original sign had decayed beyond repair. The new sign is an exact replica, but is more energy efficient and made from more environmentally responsible materials.

Seattle’s Paramount Theater is truly one of the city’s treasures and an experience not to be missed!

So get dressed up, go out to dinner, and experience Seattle shows in the grand movie palace tradition at the Paramount Theater Seattle at 9th and Pine!

For more information about shows and tickets:

The Paramount Theater

911 Pine St.


Teri Hamilton writes about top attractions and fun things to do in Seattle, Washington on her website.

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