HISTORY: Paramount 100th anniversary party No. 1. The mood turned merry. Austin Theatre Alliance chief Jim Ritts welcomed everyone to the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday. He announced various centenary events, including the return of the vaudeville house’s vertical-blade sign, which hung over Congress Avenue from 1930 to 1964.
He also saluted previous managers of the theater, including Ken Stein, who put the place on solid financial footing, and Paul Beutel, who skillfully steered the ship through troubled times before that.
Even more praise was heaped on the trio of John Bernardoni, Charles Eckerman and Steven Scott, who salvaged the theater in the mid 1970s. “Tuna” actor Jaston Williams spoke movingly about what the old grande dame meant to him and stage partner, Joe Sears, then broadly hinted they’d be back on the boards with a project.
The biggest Paramount party is expected for late September before the official Oct. 11 birthday and after the vertical-blade sign is raised. Meanwhile, there are plenty of revels to keep us entertained and reminded. Ritts announced that Lyle Lovett, intimately connected to the theater, will return for the May 9 centennial gala, accompanied by pal Patty Griffin. Also, Lovett and Jerry Jeff Walker will be honored with stars on the sidewalk under the marquee; currently only Sears and Williams are so recognized.
Some other special themed events: April 1: free showing of the Marx Brothers‘ “A Night at the Opera. April 22-25: Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival. May 20: Free showing of “The Philadelphia Story” (the Paramount was among the only theaters in the country to host both movie and the play with Katharine Hepburn). A special evening with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is also in the works. Keep your eye out for other ways to celebrate the centennial of this essential landmark.