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