The Paramount Theatre

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The Paramount Theatre has many living patrons, and a few dead ones as well.

A life’s dream restored and a beloved work place may be causing very mild activity.

 

DESCRIPTION

Theater or Theatre?

Film places are called theaters. Live performance places are called theatres. Places that offer both go with theatre or Cultural Arts Center.

The Abilene Paramount film palace had “Theater” at the end of its title. After restoration and renovations, The Paramount has “Theatre” as part of its name.

 

Paramount Theatre’s Mission Statement:
“To preserve this unique historic landmark and enrich the community through its use.”

Wow! The Atmospheric Spanish style Paramount Theatre with its 1,189 split-aisle seats is a fully restored 1930s Hollywood type ‘atmospheric film palace that was modified to also present, besides film, stage performances of all kinds: a myriad of events, including ballet, opera, and concerts.

The Paramount Theatre not only offers films and live performances in the arts, but also treats the patron with all the bells and whistles in its Lobby, Mezzarine and especially the Auditorium in transporting the patron to a place far, far away from the grind and worries of life; an Atmospheric Spanish/Moorish and Pueblo deco palace, just as it did when the Abilene Paramount opened long ago.

In the Lobby area, the beautiful hand-blown glass panels on the ornate chandeliers are full of rich colors, held by wrought iron sconces. Also in the Lobby, there are 1840 Bishop’s chairs, and detailed, new wool carpet that was loomed repeating the original 1930s’ carpet pattern, although the colors are reversed from what was originally there in the 1930s carpet.

The Mezzanine area in the Paramount Theatre features 4 portraits of people. On the south wall, a portrait of an unknown woman, that was a gift from the Gooch family to the Paramount Theatre. It is informally known by staff to be a portrait of the “Paramount Ghost.”

On the north wall, a prop painting of Spencer Tracy hangs there. It was used on the set of Tracy’s movie, “Broken Lace” and was given a last minute reprieve when it was brought from a Dallas warehouse to the Paramount Theatre. On the west wall, two photos of prominence hang there; H.O. Wooten himself; builder of the theatre, and Wally Akin; the theatre’s longtime and well-loved manager.

In the theatre’s Auditorium is a complete, recreated Spanish/Moorish courtyard scene at night, including the buildings and Moorish decor. The courtyard is made complete with a domed ceiling that has a projected night sky; neon lit with passing clouds and twinkling stars. “The Spanish/Moorish and Pueblo Deco design influence resonate a hauntingly beautiful scene, offering audiences a perfect atmosphere for classic films, live productions, and concerts.”

Besides having the stage larger to open the opportunity for live performances, other features were added.

“The stage boasts a fly loft rigging system; upgraded digital sound, lighting, and projection equipment; new stage draperies; and a wireless monitoring system for actors and musicians backstage to keep an eye on cues. The stage itself is outfitted with a Roscoe dance floor made of dense rubber mats. The floor gives a level surface for dancers, and also allows us to have a black floor that isn’t too shiny.”

It is no wonder this restored and renovated Paramount Theatre is once again a beloved landmark that has boosted the economic outlook for downtown Abilene, and inspired the restoration and renovation of other historic fixer-upper opportunities in downtown Abilene.

 

HISTORY

Film places are called theaters. Live performance places are called theatres. Places that offer both go with theatre or Cultural Arts Center. The Abilene Paramount was a film Theater. After restoration and renovations, The Paramount has Theatre as part of its name.

For over 89 years The Paramount Theatre has stood the test of time as an entertainment showcase of West Texas.

This atmospheric movie theatre was the inspiration of a successful businessman, prominent West Texas wholesale grocer, Horace O. Wooten and not built by a Hollywood studio. In 1928, Horace O. Wooten, commissioned the construction of the theatre , hiring architect Davis Castle, in conjunction with his Wooten Hotel. That is why to this day The Paramount Theatre shares a wall with the tall building n to its right. This would draw people to his hotel where they could have entertainment right next door. His community as well would love this opportunity to have an atmospheric theatre there in Abilene.

Paramount Pictures Theater Division, Paramount-Publix Theatres Corp. in Hollywood noticed this beautiful atmospheric film palace and decided to lease the theatre, making it one of the film palace theaters in their Paramount theatre chain. The theater was called The Abilene Paramount Theater.

True to form, patrons of the Abilene Paramount were treated with the opportunity to see first run, successful Paramount Pictures films such as Carole Lombard’s Safety in Numbers, and the 1931 horror classic Dracula, a full two days before its Valentine’s Day premiere.

The Abilene Paramount Theatre rallied forth through the 1930s. During the WW2 years; The Abilene Paramount was “heavily frequented by soldiers from the nearby Camp Barkle.” After the ending of ww 2, business kept flowing their way through the 1950s’, enjoying the Paramount films sent their way.

Changes were coming though! Between 1948 and 1954 all the studios including Paramount Pictures “battled anti-trust laws that eventually ruled studios could no longer monopolize their product by playing it exclusively in their own theaters. All of the studio’s theater divisions were forced to either sell off or close.”

This created a huge change for the Abilene Paramount Theater owners. The challenge for the owners of the Abilene Paramount Theater had to try to get first run films from all the studios for a price. They had to be an independent business, making their own film venue. The owners rose beautifully to the challenge of change and were able to get films that continued to draw back their patrons. The people of Abilene and surrounding communities still loved the Abilene Paramount Theater film palace.

In the early 1970s’, Abilene’s downtown began to lose its luster and ability to draw in people to shop and enjoy entertainment there. Uh oh! Cinema triplex’s were more popular in the areas outside of Abilene, showing more than one movie. The number of patrons dwindled, making it hard to break even let alone maintain the aging, fixer-upper structure of the Abilene Paramount Theater.

The owners of the Abilene Paramount Theater were not going to give up yet. So they closed briefly, and then reopened as a country music venue; thinking everyone in Abilene and the suburbs loved country music and would come back. There were not many venue in the suburbs that offered musical entertainment.

However, the stage and sound technical equipment that existed wasn’t upgraded enough for live music. The owners probably had a hard time booking top talent, as well as getting their former patrons and lovers of music to come and listen on an inferior sound system. They finally closed up their beloved theater, right when urban renewal had become an urgent goal of the city.

The wrecking ball wasn’t far behind, it was feared by citizens who loved this fixer upper opportunity, historic structure and saw the value. Seeing the scheduled date with the wrecking ball in 1984, a newly formed The Abilene Preservation League stepped in to help month before the day of destruction. They got the theatre registered on the NRHP. A donor, probably a member of The Abilene preservation League, purchased the Paramount and financed a full scale, authentic restoration of this historic, artistic gem; as well as make the stage bigger and upgrade important technical elements for its new business plan.

“From 1985 to 1987, the Paramount Theatre underwent a painstaking restoration, as well as being given state of the art projection, sound, and lighting equipment. The Paramount’s renovation received the prestigious Texas Award for Historic Preservation from the Texas Historical Commission.

The new business plan for the Abilene Paramount Theater was a broader one that would insure its economic stability. Its main goal was to widen its appeal to the biggest audience possible by serving as a cultural center for the arts for the artistic enjoyment of the biggest crowd of folks. It was not only going to reopen as a film theater palace but also would offer all the arts, including concerts, ballet, opera, live performances, dramatic and musical plays The restored, renovated Paramount Theatre reopened its doors in 1987. People flocked back with enthusiasm and The grand old Paramount Film Palace Theater; now a performance theatre as well was once more making money.

When the Paramount Theatre was economically stable, some folks from The Abilene Preservation League broke off and formed a non-profit organization, The Historic Paramount Theatre, Inc.. “The Historic Paramount Theatre, Inc., is a 501 c-3 non profit corporation dedicated to the task of preserving and maintaining this landmark. “We create our own diversified programming that engages and encourages the widest scope of patrons in Abilene. The non-profit is equally dedicated to mission of making the facility available for usage by the largest number of individuals, groups, arts organizations, businesses, and corporations possible.”

This successful rebirth of The Paramount Theatre that did its job of drawing people back to downtown, inspired a new group of people with influence who saw the economic possibilities of restoring old historic structures and repurposing them to serve the people of Abilene and the suburbs

Apparently, the living aren’t the only ones who love the new expanded experience that offers both films and live performances.

HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS

When old historic structures have fallen into the disrepair stage and are restored and even renovated into something new, spirits who care about these old historic structures come back into this world; sometimes delighted in the changes. Spirits who loved this place while alive may have been drawn back into this world when this favorite place was not only historically restored but now offers live performances!

When patrons love their theater and have had many fine movie and theatre experiences when they can forget everyday worries and issues, sometimes like to visit and continue to enjoy whatever is scheduled to be shown or perform, as spirit people. Like many theatres, The Paramount has unseen spectral patrons or perhaps people connected to the place who still love the shows.

Sometimes portraits of people can be a place where the spirits of people that were painted decide to stay. They travel with their portrait. Perhaps the spirit of the unknown woman is the one who loved the theater while she was alive. Perhaps the spirit of the beloved manager, Wally Akin is the one who keeps the living company. Perhaps the spirit is H.O. Wooten himself.

 

 

MANIFESTATIONS

The staff of The Paramount Theatre in Abilene have long had personal experiences, especially after the restoration and renovation.

The results of any paranormal investigations that may have been held here have not been made public.

Patron Spirits

Who love both the stage, performances and the films.

They are a gentle group who act like polite guests who just don’t pay for their seat.

Orbs that are not dust or insects have been inadvertently photographed by the living in the balcony and the lobby area.

Spirit of Wally Akin & Spirit of H.O. Wooten

Both must be so proud that live performances also grace the newly built stage as well as the complete restoration and renovation of the atmospheric movie palace.

These spectral theatre enthusiasts sit up in the balcony; not taking prime seats away from the living, paying patrons.

The hours before the theatre opens to the public, and there is no one living except set up staff on the first floor, definite footfalls have been heard ascending the central staircase to the balcony by the set up staff.

After the theatre has closed with everyone living has gone from the theatre except for the cleanup staff on the first floor, definite footfalls have been heard descending the same stairs from the balcony.

Orbs that are not dust or insects have been inadvertently photographed by the living in the balcony.

 

STILL HAUNTED?

Probably so, though reported personal experiences lack details; just general activity. Staff haven’t shared what they have seen; just what they have heard. Naming the photo of the unknown woman suggests that the staff may have seen a female spirit settling in for a fine performance or film. They do offer a popular Classic Film Series.

Unknown but distinct footfalls have been heard going up and down the stairs in a quiet theatre, which is a promising start. This auditory activity may be residual energy, not caused by an intelligent spirit.

The hard evidence is scant and only in photos of orbs. Some paranormal experts scoff at orbs as being any kind of proof, but it depends on what details can be seen in the photos.

I feel that it probably has some activity because old theaters/theatres often have a spirit or two. Just more personal experiences could be shared, and it is a possibility that if any hard evidence is caught that this “Probably so” rating may turn into a big “Yes Indeed.”

The presence of spirits has a way of being known to the living.

 

LOCATION

The Paramount Theatre in Abilene
352 Cypress St,
Abilene, TX 79601
(325) 676-9620

The Paramount Theatre can be found in the heart of downtown Abilene, on Cypress St; between N 4th and N 3rd. The Paramount is 2 block north of The Grace Cultural Center Museum.

SOURCES INCLUDE

  • alexanderproductions.com
  • cinematreasures.org
  • abilenescene.com
  • www.paramountabilene.com
  • paranormalbooksnj.com
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramount_Theatre
  • www.tripadvisor.com

 
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Texas