faded glory

The old Paramount Theatre was only one of many in Saint John when it was build in 1948, a glorious example of art deco sculpted plasterwork in the luxurious and large auditorium. Saint John, the hometown of Louis B. Mayer — a founder of the Hollywood studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer – had become the film distribution centre for all the movie theatres in eastern Canada. It was movie central here in town, but only for a brief time.The number of movie houses in the city had already started to decrease by the time this theatre was built. In the 1930s, it is said that were movies playing on every block, but the number of venues had reduced to 10 by the mid-1940s and by 1960, only four remained.

The old Odeon Theatre, one block away, was demolished in 2000. Now there is a surge in public interest as the theatre (re-named the King Square Cinema) faces the wrecking ball. It is just across the park from the Imperial Theatre, a beautifully restored and well-used performing arts centre. In contrast, the old Paramount has little left to work with — renovations in the 1970s split the theatre into two smaller cinemas, and much of the plasterwork is gone. When describing the building’s value, a local historian waxed eloquent about the staircase and bathroom tiles.

Could it be used as a live performance venue, or returned to glory as a movie theatre? It remains to be seen whether there will be enough public interest, or funding, to save the old Paramount.

Taken on September 5, 2010

8 thoughts on “faded glory

  1. Oh I hope someone steps up and leads it to restoration, I get very melancholic over history and things we used to use or know so well being knocked down and forgotten.

    Nice black and white shot.

    • Apparently there was a public meeting about saving the old theatre last night, and today’s newspaper contained an article about it. The current proposal is to have a medium-sized live music venue in the larger space (bigger than a club, smaller than the stadium-sized Harbour Station) and a more intimate movie theatre for art films in the smaller space. These sound like great ideas to me — not duplicating what is provided elsewhere and helping to keep a building uptown from being turned into a parking lot. I’ll post an update when a decision is made.

  2. Louis B Mayer grew up in Saint John? Who knew?? It’s sad to see these old buildings fall into disrepair and so hard to repurpose them, it seems. Small towns across the country must be dotted with theatres, albeit less grand ones than yours. In Acton, there was a quanset hut that was first redone as a drinking establishment “Sit N’ Bull”! and later a coffee shop. Locally here, the old theatre is an antique shop, but is in rough shape. Perhaps when gas prices soar, they’ll make a comeback.

    • “Sit’n Bull” — I love that! It reminds me of a motel in St. Stephen (I don’t know if it’s still there) called “Better Duck Inn”!

      Re: old buildings — at least “repurposing” leaves some room for ingenuity and practicality, while “restoration” is not always possible.

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