I love going to the Paramount Theatre Seattle to see a show! Although you don't just see a show at the Paramount Theatre - you "experience" one! This is one of those grand cinemas built back in the 1910s through the 1920s known as "movie palaces."
As the Seattle Times described the Paramount when the theater opened as the Seattle Theater on March 1, 1928:
- "a magnificent cathedral of entertainment"
- "an acre of seats in a palace of splendor"
- "show divine at 9th and Pine"
- "stately magnificence"
- "gorgeous decorations"
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 Theatre Seattle (sometimes spelled Paramount Theater Seattle) hosts six performance series:
- Silent Movies
Broadway at the Paramount
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. It's a way to test various aspects of the show and receive audience feedback. Some of the recent shows that previewed here in Seattle theatres were "Hairspray," "Shrek," and"Flashdance." 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.
Tickets to Shows
Check Goldstar first for half-price tickets, as they offer great deals on shows.
Ticketliquidator is also a good place to find tickets if you want the best seats or particular performance times, or you're looking for tickets to sold-out productions.
Trader Joe's sponsors Silent Movie Mondays. It's like stepping back in time. The Paramount Theatre shows the movies from the original film. Dennis James accompanies the movies on a Wurlitzer Organ that simulates an entire orchestra complete with pipes, chimes, horns, woodwinds, and drum set. This is the original custom-built organ that was installed in the theater when it opened in 1928. It is one of only 3 in existence that remain in their original locations.
The theater is currently working on restoring the original projectors that were used to show the films. When that project is completed, Silent Movie Mondays at the Paramount Theatre Seattle will truly be the closest thing to real time travel in Seattle!
Tour the Paramount:
Volunteers from the Seattle Theatre Group,which owns and operates the Paramount Theatre 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!
When the Stars arrive...
The dressing rooms look like the ones you see in the movies - a row of mirrors and chairs. The Star Room is reserved for the star, of course. It has a sitting room with leather sofas, a fireplace, a Jacuzzi, and two large windows with bullet-proof glass.
When major stars arrive to see an opening show, they arrive in their limousine that pulls up in the street on the side of the building. They are whisked up the fire escape directly into the Ernestine Anderson lounge where they can relax or party until show time. This room opens directly onto the VIP section of seats in the theater so they never risk getting mobbed by us regular folk!
A little Paramount Theatre Seattle history...
The Paramount Theatre 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 remained 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 Theatre Seattle dwindled and most of the movies shown were second-run. It was closed down at times.
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 theater, 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 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. You can see the posters from these shows and more hanging in the hallway backstage. Other big names like the Rockettes and Oprah Winfrey came. Madonna started her 1985 world tour at the Paramount Theatre 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 renovating the theatre. Workers expanded the stage, deep-cleaned, replaced gold leaf, and painted to restore the original beauty hidden under the years of neglect. State-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment were installed. New dressing rooms were built including the new stars' room.
In 1997 a convertible seating system was installed. Seats can be lowered and the floor raised to the level of the stage till it becomes a ballroom fit for large parties, and even an ice skating floor!
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.
The tour is fascinating and fun, especially if you enjoy live theatre. Seattle's Paramount Theatre 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 Theatre Seattle at 9th and Pine!