Tag Archives: Theater

Theatre in the Attic


The League of Historic American Theatre’s 39th Annual Conference couldn’t have picked a better host city than Nashville.  What a great city.  I am surprised at all the similarities it shares with my hometown of Austin. Of course, any city would be great if you get to experience it with hundreds of owners, operators, board members and volunteers from North America’s most beautiful theatres.  The storytelling that happens when this group gets together is inspiring…

Yesterday, I met a woman  from Pulaski, Tennessee who told me a story about a theatre company that had outgrown its space and was looking for a new home.   I don’t know the exact details (note to self: get her to write a story for the InLeague Magazine) but they found a storefront on the square in downtown Pulaski.   The space seemed perfect: wide open with an area suitable to build a stage.   It was the perfect home for the theatre company.  Then someone asked, “What’s upstairs?” No one knew the answer.   It was used as storage by the previous owner but the doors were currently screwed shut.  Maybe that could be office or rehearsal space.  Curious, they pried open the doors and…

Folks, it just doesn’t get better than this.   A theatre company went looking for a new home and purchased a storefront and then found an Opera House hiding in the attic.  That’s right.  Upstairs they found the old, forgotten Antoinette Hall built in 1868.  No one remembered it was there…


The Difference…

Kathy Griffin Buses at the Paramount Paramount Interior

Thanks to Elle, the current bid for these 2 front row seats stands at an amazing $775.  Remember, to leave a bid,  just leave a comment with the amount you are willing to donate to the theatre.  I’ll email you if you get the winning bid.  Multiple (high) bids of the same amount will go into a final drawing.  The winning bid will be confirmed before the tickets are issued… and free drinks are included!  So make a bid now to join me in A-List seating for this D-List Mega Star.

Over on EBay, I just saw a pair of Orchestra Right Row J tickets that are selling for $510.  Now, EBay gets some of that and the Paramount, of course, got its original sale for the tickets.  The EBay seller keeps the rest.  I am not sure how I feel about that, and to my knowledge there isn’t anything illegal about the transaction.  BUT…

Here is the difference.  When you buy tickets from anyone other than the Paramount or our authorized ticketing agency, Gettix, there is no guarantee that you actually have seats to the show.  It depends on whether the seller is honest or not.  (In fact, the seating chart displayed by this EBay seller isn’t even the Paramount in Austin, Texas …it’s the Paramount in Austin, Minnesota!) You wouldn’t believe the lengths some scalpers will go to try and get the good seats that should otherwise have gone to donors and subscribers. However, the tickets that you are bidding on here at my blog are real.  They are better seats,  AND 100% of your donation is staying with the theatre.  So why is that important?

Well, the Paramount no longer makes good business sense.  We don’t have enough seats to make keeping her open a profitable venture.  She had a good run as a Vaudeville House back at the turn of the last century, but then Vaudeville died.  She had another good go at it as Austin’s only true  “movie palace” from 1930 until the late 60’s.  But then big Cineplex’s came to the “burbs” and downtown movie palaces began to close their doors from coast to coast.  The Paramount would surely have closed if not for three UT graduates who tried to rent it and turn it into a live performance space again in 1976.  Alas, they went bankrupt almost immediately, but they had captured Austin’s attention and a Non-Profit was formed to keep the grand old lady open.

Every generation of Central Texans will have to ask itself,  “Do we want to save this for the next generation?”  The first time that answer is “No” will be the last time the question needs to be asked because the Paramount will be lost forever like so many other theatres before her.  To understand just how significant the Paramount is, please read my post from a couple of weeks ago entitled “Shooting a Pilot”.  And if that isn’t enough to inspire you to keep her doors open, then I should also add that we welcome over 10,000 school children and give away literally thousands of tickets to children and non-profits each year.  We also host the Ballet, Symphony, SXSW, Austin Film Society, Austin Film Festival, TexARTS, KLRU, KUT, and the list goes on…

The Paramount is the center for arts and entertainment in the city.  While other buildings boast of being 20, 30 or even 40 stories tall, we pride ourselves on being over a million stories old – stories of first dates, favorite movies, special memories and more…

Shall we continue with the bids? Craig? Brian? Wes?  Julie?  Bueller?  Beuller?  Anyone?

Comments on this post are now closed.  Please continue the bids on the most recent post.

Asphalt Jungle

Marilyn Monroe Paramount Interior

I hope everyone has a great 4th of July.  We’ll be closed, but we open again on the 5th with a classic Marilyn Monroe film.

Asphalt Jungle starring Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, and Marilyn Monroe was directed by John Huston.  This steel-edged story of the plotting of a crime and the gang of characters required to pull it off is one of Huston’s best, and a model of its kind.

The best thing about seeing a film during our Summer Film Series is that first moment when the film starts to play while the stage curtains are still opening.  Does anyone else remember that from childhood?  There is something about the opening credits shining on both the screen and the curtains as they open…  Thanks to our masterful head projectionist, John Stewart, the Paramount is able to get many classic films that would not otherwise be loaned out.  John’s reputation is well known coast to coast.

Before John, our head projectionist for many years was Walter Norris.  Some believe his ghost still hangs out at the theatre.  He died while screening Casablanca in 2000.  Walter always said he would die at the Paramount and everyone who works in the projection booth knows that if you bring Walter’s favorite treats – chocolate donuts and Snickers – everything will run fine in the booth.  If we forget, something usually goes wrong. 

My favorite story that John tells is the time they had an issue with the projector.  After working on it all day, someone remembered Walter and his donuts.  The next morning, with donuts being offered, the projector started working as if nothing had ever been wrong with it.

 These and other stories can be seen in a docutmentary about the Paramount that was produced by ME Television (Local Channle 15).  We hope to have copies for sale soon, but you can still catch it on TV.

A river runs through it…


With all the flooding happening I thought I would share a little known fact about the Paramount and State Theatres – they are built on top of an underground creek.  Pumps in the basement keep these landmarks high and dry, but during heavy rains you can listen to the water running through special channnels in some of the walls that carry the water down to the pumps in the old boiler room.  It’s kind of cool and creepy at the same time.

Us vs. Them – you decide

Cyndi Pauper at the Parmount Cyndi at larger venue

Last year, Cyndi Lauper played the Paramount and left people literally stunned at her musical talent…. I know, not something you would think about the 80’s Pop Icon.  But it’s ture.  She is extremely talented and her live show at the Paramount is something that people are still talking about.  It was that good.  We tried to get her back this year but her current tour played Houston and Dallas instead.

I loved her concert so much that I made the trip to Dallas to see her again.  Big, BIG mistake.  Cyndi was great but the venue ruined everything.  I couldn’t hear a single word she sang.   At both shows she left the stage and climbed into the seats to sing.  The picture on the left above was taken from a cell phone at the Paramount in a seat that cost $67.  The picture on the right above was taken from my seat in Dallas that cost $72.   I am telling you, the Paramount is just the absolute best venue to see any kind of show.

Acoustically  the Paramount was built before sound systems, so if you are a music lover actually hearing the music at the Paramount is a treat.  Visually the Paramount is stunning and even the last seat in the balcony is closer than most seats in other venues.  The Paramount has spoiled me…. maybe you should let yourself be spoiled as well.  Check out our 2007-08 Season now on sale.

Oh and I checked on tickets to Kathy Griffin’s show at the Paramount in July.  Only obstructed view seats are left.  These can only be purchased at the Paramount Box Office located at 713 Congress Ave.  Even our obstructed view seats are not that bad.

Shooting a Pilot

Paramount Interior Travel Channel 2 Travel Channel documentary

So a production team was at the theatre today shooting a pilot for the Travel Channel.  They hope to produce a series of shows about special theatres around the nation….their first pick was the Paramount in Austin.  I asked, Why us? and they told me that they had gotten an email from me inviting everyone to come see Diavolo last season.  In the email I explained that it was an extraordinarily beautiful show in an extraordinarily beautiful theatre.  They came to the show and agreed.

So a film crew of five spent several hours filming and interviewing me and our head custodian, Tony Johnson.   They also interviewed Peggy, one of our favorite ushers. I have no idea if the Travel Channel will air the pilot, but I will let you know when/if we hear something.  BTW – Tony and I didn’t look too shabby after the make-up artist finished with us.  Peggy always looks great.

So, I wanted to share some of the things we talked about during the filming…

The Paramount, built in 1915, was originally called The Majestic and was billed as “the theatre beautiful.”  It was designed by a famous theatre architect named John EbersonEberson is credited with popularizing a new style of theatre around the turn of the last century.  This new style of theatre was called an atmospheric theatre and the Austin Majestic was his very first attempt at the new style.  This genre of theater architecture sought to transport the patron into another time and place, to give the illusion of sitting in an exotic setting.

Eberson’s early commissions were traditional theatre designs, but, with the Austin Majestic (1916), and Dallas Majestic (1917), he began his shift to the atmospheric style. The Houston Majestic, his first truly “atmospheric”, opened in 1923.  Eberson’s design work was so popular that sketches and blueprints were stolen from his studio, and later appeared in other theatres by competing architects.  On a sad note, the Majestic in Houston was torn down several years ago. (BTW, the link to the Houston Majestic above takes you to a page that includes comments from people who remember that grand theatre – how sad that it is gone.) His Majestic in San Antonio  built in 1929 still stands, but the one in Austin is the one that started it all.

 I’ll post more about our theatre beautiful soon…

Why is it called a Green Room?

George Carlin

Last night we hosted a private event for Weaver Kading & Associates who were treated to a private screening of the documentary “Texas Legends – The Paramount Theatre” which was produced by METV.  

Some of the guests ended the evening with a backstage tour.  I was asked the question:  Why is it called the Green Room?   I didn’t know the answer. But I looked it up on Wikipedia and copied the article below.    All I know is our Green Room is a green room.  And that rather rude comment written on the wall is from George Carlin.  Just another piece of our history.

A  ”green room” is a room in a theater, studio, or other public venue for the accommodation of performers or speakers when not required on the Stage.
The first recorded use of the term was in 1701 but the origin of the term is unknown and is the source of many folk etymologies such as:

  • In some explanations it is said that the color was a response to limelight; early stage lighting.
  • Green is also thought to be a calming and soothing color but this is according to 20th century psychological theories so can not be the origin of the term.
  • The most widely accepted origin of the term dates back to Shakespearean theatre. Actors would prepare for their performances in a room filled with plants and shrubs. It was believed that the moisture in the topiary was beneficial to the Actors’ voices.
  • Richard Southern, in his studies of Medieval theatre in the round, states that the acting area was “The Green”. The central space, often grass-covered, was used by the actors, while the surrounding space and circular banks were occupied by the spectators. Since then “The Green” has been a traditional actor’s term for the stage. Even in proscenium arch theatres there was a tradition that a green stage cloth should be used for a tragedy. The green room is thus the room on the way to the green.
  • It has been suggested that the original ‘green room’ was in a London theatre converted from office buildings. The room behind the stage had previously been used to cut deals and was known as the ‘agreeing room,’ and the phrase has become corrupted over the years.