Paramount to celebrate the big 8-0

Published 10:08 am Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Community party set for Sept. 10 in Ashland

The Depression that sent thousands to bread lines was in full force. But there were many milestones in 1931 that showed off the overcoming spirit of America. Like Lou Gehrig breaking his own RBI record. Or Babe Ruth hitting his 600th home run.

And across the Ohio River a buff brick façade took its place on the lower end of the main street of Ashland, Ky., to become one of the premier movie houses in the Tri-State.

On Sept. 5, 1931, the Art Deco Paramount Theatre opened after three years of construction to a crowd of eager moviegoers who spent afternoons and evenings in front of its silver screen for the next 40 years.

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Today that building is now the Paramount Arts Center, a performing arts center, that hosts Broadway shows, pop and country music concerts and classical symphonies. It is also gearing up for a massive community birthday party that will recreate many of the moments of that 1931 opening.

“This was a big landmark in 80 years and there were so many people in this community who loved the Paramount,” Christy Reaves, Paramount Arts Center development director, said. “It had been a part of their life for so many years. There were people who considered it in some of their fondest memories.

“We wanted to celebrate and share everything about the Paramount with our community. There are some really special parts about the Paramount, the historic tours, and the restoration of the murals. People come in and they ask an usher about the history. By having this birthday party we are arranging to open it up to the community and have these historic tours.”

Among the events for this one-day birthday party on Sept 10, will be a vintage style show featuring the clothes of the 1930s and 1940s; docent-guided tours of the historic building and performances by Commedia Dell’Arte. That evening visitors can see part of the same lineup original show watchers saw when they came for opening night in 1931 from newsreel to cartoon to main feature.

Birthday party organizers also want to create a digital scrapbook made up of the remembrances of moviegoers. They are asking for those memories to be submitted as Letters to the Editor to area newspapers including The Tribune. Those letters, in turn, will be digitized and preserved.

“One of the things we recognize is that every year people move out of the community or pass on and there are so many precious memories that tell the story about the Paramount that we don’t know,” Reaves said. “We are excited about getting people to tell their history and what their memories are. Sometimes it was the first movie they ever saw or they came with their granddad. At a certain point if we don’t get these stories written down, they will be lost forever. We feel like we are preserving history by getting these people’s individual stories.”

Letters can be submitted directly to newspapers or for those who would like help in writing them, freelance writer Angela Henderson-Bentley can be contacted at Letters to The Tribune can be sent to P.O. Box 647, Ironton, OH 45638, or online.

For more information about the celebration contact Reeves at the PAC at 606-324-3175 Ext. 316.