Originally built as a 1500-seat movie palace by Publix Pictures, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures, the Peekskill Paramount Theatre first opened its doors to the public wtih great fanfare on June 27, 1930. The Inaugural program featured an overture by the Paramount Symphony Orchestra, an appearance by the village mayor, and “A Paramount All-Talking Picture”, The Big Pond, starring Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert.
At the time, Publix Theatres was recognized as a leader in the theatre building industry, and the Peekskill Paramount was constructed as a state-of-the-art facility unrivalled in the region. Designed by the noted architectural firm of George and Charles Rapp, who designed great theatres all across the country, the Paramount boasted “a mammoth cooling and air conditioning plant, a beautifully furnished lounge, rest rooms and many other exclusive features.” It even had a great Wurlitzer theatre organ, which rose from the pit, played for years by Banks Kennedy. The Paramount building is a designated Westchester County Landmark, listed on both the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.
The Paramount prospered for decades despite the Depression and World War II. However, it was the advent of shopping malls and television that brought on its demise as a movie theatre. Paramount sold the building in 1973. Eventually the building was acquired by the City of Peekskill in 1977 due to a tax default. Following improvements to the building, the Paramount opened briefly in 1979 as a performing arts theatre operating under the auspices of local arts and community groups.
The results of those performances were mixed, and following a market survey and various proposals, and through the urging of a community-based grassroots “Save the Paramount” campaign, the City of Peekskill agreed to the establishment of an independent nonprofit corporation, which would lease the building and independently operate it. Following further renovations and improvements, including the removal of several hundred seats, the Peekskill Paramount Center for the Performing Arts presented its first series of performances in the spring of 1982. Its mission was to bring cultural and educational programming to the northern Westchester and Putnam County area at affordable prices.
Currently, the nonprofit Paramount Center for the Arts operates as a year-round multidisciplinary center for the arts, with live performances, arts-in-education programs, films, and visual art exhibitions, serving over 63,000 people annually from throughout the mid-Hudson Valley Region.
The Paramount Center for the Arts is exploring a new way of presenting top caliber performers by offering patrons onstage seating with the artist in an intimate setting. Wine tasting by Dylan’s Cellar and appetizer pairings from 12 Grapes will be offered beginning ½ hour before the performance and tickets will be limited to 64 to create an unforgettable close up and personal experience for our guests and an inviting audience interaction for our artists. Selecting top names with a diverse musical background, we believe this is a wonderful opportunity for our audience to get acquainted with performers in a relaxed and appealing space.
Smooth Jazz fans will await the appearance of the Sax Pack.
Paramount Center, 1008 Brown St, Peekskill, New York 10566