By Timothy Rawles / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(Casa Grande, AZ) The Historic Paramount Theatre is a gem in the crown of Casa Grande, Arizona. The fact that it is still in operation is a testament to not only its workmanship but the importance it has in the community.
It was 1929 and America was experiencing a new era of entertainment, a film with sound. Gloria Swanson was the queen of Hollywood at the time and her film “The Trespasser” screened at the Paramount on its opening day.
J.E. Rickards and Harry Nace who owned operated the architectural beauty that is the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix ran the Paramount until it closed in 1939. Over the next several years the abandoned cinema stood in various states of disrepair. It was renovated or altered so frequently it lost its once-grand architectural nobility.
The Paramount was thought to have seen its last day in 1992, but it would get new life and new purpose after Deborah Martin purchased it in 1993 with plans to restore it to its original splendor by 2003. During the restoration process, the historic site gained a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places, forever solidifying its importance to Hollywood and Arizona history.
After 10 years of meticulous work, The Paramount opened its doors to the public once again. The missing marquee and ticket booth had been replicated on the outside. While inside, everything was returned to its original splendor right down to the plaster castings and lovely paintings. As planned, in 2003 it was re-opened as an entertainment space for concerts and the arts.
Ticket buyers once again paid to enter its lobby milling around in the foyer awaiting the dimming lights to signal the start of their show. Today the majestic building remains a place for such imagination.
Rickey Robinson has kept a watchful eye on the historic space serving as its manager. “The Paramount is important to anyone and everyone who is interested in stage performing arts. We look for and promote talent and creativity within the community,” he says.
While the marquee no longer promotes movies as it did nearly a century ago, it still encourages people to come in out of the heat to watch diverse stage productions and concerts from all cultures. “I believe talent has no color and everyone is welcome to bring their talent to the table for auditions.”
One popular offering is the mystery dinner theater. Robinson explains why so many locals come out to see this interactive performance.
“Casa Grande is a town that loves Murder Mystery Dinner Plays,” he says. “This is a time where the audience can enjoy a great stage play and participate in solving the mystery over dinner.”
Robinson also owns Triple RRR Production, a company that hosts private and public events at the Paramount Theatre. “We put on live concerts, comedy shows, and entertainment at the theater.”
The auditorium can seat up to 300 people Robinson says, or in the case of table service, 175 seats, which is a nice size for an intimate night of entertainment.
Past shows have included a musical homage to Motown and “Sapphire Blue?” a mystery dinner whodunnit.
On the horizon, Robinson says he’s still planning the summer schedule, but in the meantime, you can catch the live music and comedy show April Act a Fools Concert on April 1, or a live performance by the band Kreative Culture and special musical guests on April 8.
The Paramount Theatre has survived for nearly a century through wars, depressions, and even the decline of cinematic entertainment. Today it provides people with a look into the past while keeping the stage alive for future generations who appreciate art from entry to showtime.
The Paramount Theatre is located at 420 North Florence Street, Casa Grande.