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The Paramount Theater

During the 1920s, each new theater grew larger and more ornate than the last. For [2080}:Seattle], the theater of honor was the “Seattle Theatre.” The Seattle Theatre opened in March 1928. It was designed, based in part on the design of the New York Paramount, in collaboration with the Chicago architectural firm of Rapp and Rapp, and B. Marcus Priteca, known for his work on the Coliseum Theatre, and as America's most-celebrated architect of movie palaces. The interior design was unique, dramatic, and lavish. It was remarkable in the impressive grandeur of its colonnaded foyer. The interior was decorated in the Beaux-Arts-style of the palace in Versailles. The walls and ceilings adorned with ornate plaster relief, all painted in 16 colors. The four tiers of grand lobbies, one above the other, were bedecked with French baroque plaster moldings, gold leaf-encrusted wall medallions, rich paint colors, beaded chandeliers, and lacy ironwork. The floor was lovingly covered with hand-loomed French carpeting, to comfort the patron’s feet as they walked. Heavy, expensive draperies fell at the windows, and hand-carved furniture upholstered in the finest fabrics lined the first-floor lobby. Seattle's Paramount is the first theater in the country to offer a fully automated convertible floor system. This state-of-the-art system transforms the beautiful auditorium space into a magnificent ballroom with glossy hardwood flooring. In an age of live orchestras and organ music, the Seattle Theatre outshines the rest. Seattle Theatre’s organ was the largest and most-impressive orchestra-unit organ, built in 1928, and included an entire grand piano and drum set built into the side panels of the auditorium, together with hundreds of pipes, bells, chimes, whistles, and horns. The Seattle Theatre and its opening night received overwhelmingly positive reviews. The theater’s architecture was declared a “triumph” that was spacious and tasteful, yet created an atmosphere of intimacy, of luxurious comfort, of warmth on a grand scale. In 1930, the Seattle Theatre changed its name to the Paramount Theatre, reflecting its connection to the Paramount Theatre of New York City and to the Publix Loew Corporation, who owned the theaters in both cities. The vaudeville acts seen at Seattle's Paramount Theatre came directly from New York. The Great Depression made its effects known to every facet of life, and that includes the life of the Paramount Theatre. The first time the Paramount closed was in July 1931, owing to the fact that fewer patrons could afford the theater, but joyfully reopened, in October 1932. In September 1981, the Paramount closed for a month in order to repaint approximately 20 percent of the facility, clean public areas, install bright red carpeting, reupholster the seats, improve the sound system, repair the organ, and refurbish the seven-story marquee. It re-opened in October 1981. In June 1994, the theater closed for restoration. During that time, they enlarged the stage, increased the size of the wings, and renovated walls and ceilings. The grand lobby was repainted using five glaze colors, six different sponge treatments, six re-created plaster moldings, and 1,500 linear feet of aluminum foil. When the rest of the restoration had been completed in the autumn of 1997, the Paramount Theatre completed an installation of a seating system that could change the main floor in just a few short hours from the regular sloped theater seating to a flat ballroom. In the early 1970s, the State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation nominated, despite of its deterioration, the Paramount Theatre to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In recognition of its architectural and historical significance, the Paramount building was officially placed on the register in October 1974.