The Paramount Theatre was originally designed by the renowned Chicago theater architects Rapp and Rapp, opening its doors in 1928. Glory is once again to be restored upon the Paramount Theatre, located at the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues in Brooklyn. From 1928-1962 the theater operated as a destination performance space introducing the borough to jazz, early rock ‘n’ roll – with performers including Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ray Charles. The theater not only provided musical entertainment, it was uniquely designed to show talking films – the first in the world.
In 1962, the theater closed and was converted into a gymnasium and served as the home for LIU Blackbirds basketball team until 2005 – most recently known as Arnold and Marie Schwartz Athletic Center. While the building was converted, LIU was careful to preserve and maintain the original Rococo-style ceiling and wall trimmings, along with the Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, which has been played throughout the years, thanks to the New York Theater Organ Society.
The Paramount now plans to undergo a 24-month renovation led by the Paramount Events Center (PEC). Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner and Onexim Sports Entertainment plan to reopen the theater – renamed as LIU Paramount – scheduling over 120 events with an overall focus on emerging talent. The events will include music and comedy performances, boxing, and private performances. Ratner stated, “For years, I have admired the beautiful shell that remains of Brooklyn Paramount at LIU and I am excited to restore the iconic venue to its rightful splendor. I have had a long association with LIU Brooklyn and am proud to expand that relationship by joining with Onexim Sports and Entertainment to revive the storied Brooklyn Paramount and make it a world-renowned theater once again.”
Eric Kransoff, chairman of LIU’s board of trustees stated, “The Brooklyn Paramount and LIU will create a premier destination that enhances our commitment to arts and culture in the community.” The new theater will come in at $50 million with plans for a flexible seating configuration and capacity of up to 3,500 guests. Paramount Theatre expects to open in 2018. Current LIU intramural programs and events that use the Paramount space will be moved to other facilities on campus, ultimately residing in a new space on campus by 2017. LIU students will have the opportunity for internships and employment in areas such as arts management and performing arts, along with discounted or free tickets to some events, once the theater reopens. Kimberly Cline, President of LIU noted, “ It brings our commitment to the arts – and our roles in the arts community – to an entirely new level for our students, faculty, and alumni, and solidifies our role as a major cultural driver in Brooklyn.”