LIU and Barclays’ developer Ratner to partner in restoration
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The legendary Brooklyn Paramount Theatre – where generations of Brooklynites applauded performances by stars like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and Chuck Berry – is being restored to its former glory.
The grand, Rococo-style movie palace and live performance hall in Downtown Brooklyn became part of LIU Brooklyn’s campus in 1962 and now serves as a multi-purpose space and gymnasium.
The theatre will undergo a two-year renovation and reemerge as the LIU Paramount Theatre, according to LIU.
The restoration will be led by Paramount Events Center (PEC) and LIU. PEC is headed by Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner and Onexim Sports and Entertainment, and business operations are overseen by Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark.
Eric Krasnoff, chairman of LIU's board of trustees, said in a statement that PEC will provide “expertise in design, development, programming, marketing, and operations.”
“The Brooklyn Paramount and LIU will create a premier destination that enhances our commitment to arts and culture in the community,” Krasnoff said. The project will come in at $50 million and is expected to open in 2018.
“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,” Ratner said. “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.”
PEC plans to book “emerging talent” for more than 120 annual events, which will feature music, comedy, boxing, and private programs for students, according to a statement. The venue will have a flexible seating configuration with a capacity of up to 3,500.
A grand history
The Paramount, located at the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues in Brooklyn, operated as a destination performance space from 1928-1962. Designed by renowned theatre architects Rapp and Rapp, the Paramount was the first theatre in the world designed to show talking movies. The venue introduced the borough to jazz, and was the early home of rock 'n’ roll in the 1950s, with performers including Ray Charles and Chubby Checker.
Former East Flatbush resident Rhea Geberer recalled attending a performance at the Paramount at the age of 13. She told the Brooklyn Eagle that she remembers the theatre as being “big and fancy, with huge lines around the block.” The only way she and her friend got into the show was by “talking to some guys” on the line, who decided to let her in.
While she doesn’t remember much about the show, she does recall that Little Richard was one of the acts on the bill.
Another long-time Brooklyn resident said that her mom, who is now 103 years old and living in Nebraska, told her she saw Dinah Shore perform at the Paramount “before she became a blond.”
The Paramount was converted to a gymnasium by LIU and served as the home of the LIU Blackbirds basketball team until 2005. The ornate ceiling and wall trimmings still remain, along with the 2,000-pipe Wurlitzer organ.
LIU intramural programs and events that currently use the Paramount space will be moved to other facilities on campus, and will ultimately reside in a new space the campus plans to erect in 2017. The new space will be created in the Steinberg Health & Wellness Center, the school said.
Employment opportunities and internships in areas like arts management and performing arts will be available to LIU students, and free or discounted tickets to some events will also be provided to them.
“The renovation of Brooklyn Paramount is a major milestone in the history of LIU,” Kimberly Cline, president of LIU said. “It brings our commitment to the arts – and our role 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.”