In 2005 when Emerson College bought the Paramount Center it was a relic: an old, dilapidated shell of a beauty that once was. Now, in 2010, The Paramount Center reopens its doors, and it has never looked so good!
The first thing you’ll notice about the Paramount Center will hit you well before you reach 555 Washington St., and that is the 7,000 bulb marquee awning that has been restored to its early-1900’s grandeur. While you’re still outside the building make sure to marvel at the $100,000, 4,000 plus bulb LED video wall that fills the Paramount’s neighboring building’s windows.
If you manage to drag yourself away from the light show outside, you will step into the classic art-deco style Paramount Theater. Complete with mustard-brown seats, murals, an orchestra pit, a painted rococo fan, and gold figurines, what once was a 1,700 seat movie house has been transformed into a 590 seat live-performance theater, a near-perfect replica of the Great Depression-era cinema. Having purchased what used to be The Arcade Building next door, the new Paramount Center also holds a 170 seat film screening room, a Black-Box theater (capacity 125,) a sound stage, a scene/prop shop, rehearsal studios, practice rooms, classrooms, and faculty offices. Oh wait, there’s more. Above the theaters will be 60,000 square feet of new dormitory space for 260 Emerson students, and there is also room for a 150 seat restaurant that is available for lease.
Elkus|Manfredi offered preliminary designs for the restoration of the Paramount and worked with Emerson College and the appropriate Massachusetts authorities until approval was granted. Elkus|Manfredi then administered the 26 month construction process, with BOND as the leader in construction and renovation, consulting with Acentech on the theater’s acoustics.
As far as programming goes, well, that’s up to Emerson’s recently appointed Robert Orchard, Emerson’s first executive director of the arts. Orchard, who was planning to retire after a long stint as executive director for Harvard’s American Repertory Theatre, “plans to partner with US and international companies to present theater, dance, and music performances.” First, however, “[The] Celebrity Series of Boston is trying out the Paramount Theatre with a performance Saturday by Germany’s Max Raabe & the Palast Orchester. Later this month, Celebrity Series will present New Zealand’s Black Grace Dance Company and singer Dee Dee Bridgewater’s tribute to Billie Holiday there.” This is an exciting start to what I’m sure, as an Emerson College student, will be a great year of performances.
With this latest addition, Boston’s Theater District is becoming even more of an international live-performance powerhouse, and Emerson, which owns both the Paramount and the Cutler Majestic Theater’s, is at the forefront.