In 1981, I remember listening to a powerful concept album that gave me chills. Called Paradise Theater, Styx’s music gave a fictional account of a grand theater, from it’s glamorous, sophisticated opening to it’s dismissive closing and eventual abandonment. Today, I am hearing that very soundtrack in my head as I consider the sad news about the possible closure of one of our own, beloved theaters… the Paramount.
The landmark theater, with its classic grandeur, first opened its doors in 1930. After a rousing performance by its very own house symphony orchestra, crowds marveled at a fairly new art form, the “all-talking picture.” With each new decade, the Paramount remained committed to its support of the arts. Both aspiring talent and acclaimed artists have graced its stage, including B.B. King, Judy Collins, and renowned violinist, Joshua Bell. Artsy films and indie films, awards shows and the ballet have all been offered at the Paramount.
Vincent Vesce, president of the board of directors, has said that the nonprofit has suffered major cuts in grants and other contributions that the organization has depended on. In September, the board implored the community to participate in a fundraising campaign. However, on October 3rd officials announced that the theater’s doors would be closing for an indefinite period of time. Sadly, in addition to the cultural loss to Peekskill, merchants are rightly concerned about expected losses to their own businesses. The theater, of course, brought business to the many galleries, restaurants, parking facilities and coffee houses in the area.
In Paradise Theater’s last track, a brief saloon-piano piece fades slowly into the walls of the decaying theater. It’s nostalgic and haunting, representing the heartfelt loss of a golden age. The closing of the Paramount is equally tragic, calling to mind what an invaluable part of our history and cultural legacy it has been. I’m deeply saddened that its doors may have closed for the last time.