Paramount Theatre - 1899
652 Columbia Street, New Westminster, BC.
Description of Historic Place:
The Paramount Theatre is a modest motion picture theatre building with prominent marquee and neon Paramount signage. Built on the steep slope of the south side of Columbia Street, the main commercial street in New Westminster's historic downtown core, it has a two storey form on the front facade, with three storeys at the rear.
The Paramount Theatre is historically important as one of the oldest surviving motion picture theatre buildings in B.C. Established in 1903 by Frank Kerr, the Edison Theatre moved into the western half of the 1899 Dupont Block in 1910. It was common at this time to convert existing spaces into theatres rather than construct new buildings specifically for that use, as there was concern that the movies would prove to be a passing fad. In 1948 the theatre was leased to Paramount-Famous Players, who completed interior and exterior renovations, including a new neon sign with the name Paramount Theatre. The front facade recalls a period when New Westminster's downtown was still a regional commercial, retail and entertainment centre, prior to the arrival of the automobile-oriented suburban shopping malls. Downtown areas such as Columbia Street contained all essential services for the expanding population, with movie houses being an essential cultural element. The Paramount Theatre was highly significant to the community, as television was not yet widely available and movies were the main form of public entertainment. Despite its closure as a movie theatre, the Paramount continues to be used for entertainment purposes.
Furthermore, the Paramount Theatre is significant for its contribution to the consistent and distinctive built form of Columbia and Front Streets, which dates from the time when New Westminster was the major centre of commerce and industry for the booming Fraser Valley area.
Source: Heritage Planning Files, City of New Westminster
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Paramount Theatre include its:
- location with frontages on both Columbia and Front Streets, part of a grouping of late Victorian and Edwardian era commercial buildings in historic downtown New Westminster
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- boxy form, two-storey plus lower level height, flat roof and cubic massing
- exterior theatre elements on the front facade such as its large sheet metal marquee, 1948 neon Paramount Theatre sign, central entry with mahogany doors and chromed hardware, and ticket booth with aluminum sash and black tile
- exterior elements of the rear facade, including original 1899 elements such as the stucco-covered brick walls and segmental arched window openings, and later alterations such as the stage-level doors and the brick clad fly space over the stage
- interior features from the 1948 renovations, such as stepped balconies and the proscenium arch