I’ve been to a handful of beautiful, historic theatres around the Midwest, but I’d never been in one like this. The Paramount Theatre in Anderson dates back to the late 1920s - an era of silent movies and vaudeville shows. Like many theatres of its time, it was very decorative and had a massive pipe organ. It also had the additional advantage - it is an atmospheric theatre.
In the 1920s, there were many of this particular style of movie palaces built, but there aren’t a lot of them still around. Atmospheric theatres were designed to mimic the outdoors and evoke a specific time and place in their ornamentation and architecture.
In the case of, the Paramount Theatre, was made to give the illusion of a Spanish villa. It features statues and iron gates. And the ceiling features painted clouds and twinkling lights that make you feel like you are sitting under a dark, starry sky. It’s breathtaking.
The master of this style of architecture was John Eberson, who created such theatres all around the world. The Paramount had much more elaborate plans when construction began in 1928, but the Great Depression caused the structure to be heavily downsized from seven stories with a theatre, hotel and ballroom to three stories with a ballroom. The theatre is one of just a dozen Eberson-designed atmospheric theatres that still exist.
However, looking at the Paramount today, you wouldn’t think any expense had been spared on the building of this impressive theatre. It seats over 1,400 and is adorned with velvet seats, hand-laid tile, a terra cotta facade and statues of Hebe (the Goddess of Youth) and Venus.
The original Grande PAGE Piano was used continuously until 1984 and later restored and expanded in 1997. It’s one of only three such pipe organs which exist in its original installation in the United States. It also has the second-largest theatre screen in Indiana.
The theatre almost met the fate of the wrecking ball in 1989 after sitting vacant for several years, but a local lawyer spearheaded an effort to save it. A foundation was created, and it re-opened in 1995. In was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
On a visit to Anderson, we took in a concert of the Anderson Symphony Orchestra. The experience was enhanced by being in such a beautiful place to hear the music played. For information on upcoming performances and events, visit andersonparamount.org.