ABOUT THE PARAMOUNT
ABILENE’S LANDMARK THEATRE
Designed and built in 1930 by architect David Castle, the landmark Paramount Theatre in Abilene, Texas has a rich and significant history. A beautiful example of the nostalgic “atmospheric” movie theatre, it was built in an era when movie-going was meant to be a grand experience that transported you to another time and place. The theatre’s main auditorium space was designed to re-create a Spanish / Moorish courtyard at night, complete with projected clouds passing over a neon-lit night sky fitted with twinkling stars.
The Paramount, restored in 1987 and renovated to accommodate live theatre, is now the home to a myriad of events, including film, ballet, opera, and concerts. For over 89 years it has stood the test of time as an entreatment showcase of West Texas.
JUST THE FACTS
OPENED: May 18, 1930
ARCHITECT: David S. Castle & Co., Abilene, Texas
DESIGN: Spanish / Moorish with Pueblo Deco influences
CAPACITY: 1,187 (originally 1,500)
RESTORATION AND RENOVATION: Killis Almond, De-Lara Almond Architects, San Antonio, Texas; Restoration Associates, San Antonio, Texas; Parson & Company, Abilene, Texas
GRAND RE-OPENING: May 21, 1987
MEMBERSHIPS: League of Historic American Theatres
HONORS: National Register of Historic Places, Texas Award for Historic Preservation
A BRIEF HISTORY
The Paramount’s history is as rich as its decor. In 1928, Horace O. Wooten, a prominent West Texas wholesale grocer, financed construction of the Paramount to compliment the adjacent Wooten Hotel—an 18 story structure hailed as West Texas’ first modern skyscraper.
Two years later, on May 18, 1930, the Paramount opened its doors with a sold-out house for the film “Safety in Numbers.” starring Charles “Buddy Rogers” and Carole Lombard. All of Abilene turned out to witness this landmark special event.
For many years, the Paramount Theatre was part of the Interstate Theatre chain, lovingly managed by Wally Akin for over four decades. Promotional stunts were second nature to Akin—locals recall bringing milk bottle caps for admission to “Uncle Wally’s Birthday Club” on Saturday mornings.
During World War II, the Paramount was a popular destination for soldiers stationed at Camp Barkley, a large Army training camp outside Abilene.
The Paramount continued to operate as a first run movie theatre until the mid 1970s, when thinning downtown traffic caused declining box office revenues and the theatre was closed for the first time since its 1930 opening.
To save the Paramount from impending demolition, a group of individuals established the Paramount Committee under the umbrella of the newly-established Abilene Preservation League. They worked to get the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places, sparing it from a fate that had already befallen so many of the country’s premiere movie palaces.
Several years later, a generous donor purchased the Paramount and financed a full, authentic restoration of renovation that was completed in 1987. Since its restoration, the theatre has expanded its programing to include film, live theatre, concerts, private parties, and special arts events.
The theatre, now fully equipped with state-of-the-art sound, lighting, projection and multi-media equipment, is one of the stellar arts venues in the Southwest.