Jewels of Newark: The Old Paramount Theater

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By Martyn Mendyuk

If you’ve ever walked to Chipotle, Penn Station, or just down Market St., you may have noticed the old school façade of the Paramount Theater; located between Broad St. and Branford Place. The theater has begun to fade into its surroundings, its walls have grown old and decrepit over its long existence, and the vibrant lights and colors that once illuminated its doors are now dark and grey. Despite all this, the Paramount Theater still remains a beautiful and historic jewel in downtown Newark.

Started in 1886 as H.C. Miner’s Newark Theater, the 2,000 seat theater would regularly draw in lines that went down several blocks. People would pack into the lobby waiting to see famed bands, vaudeville, and even movies until the late 20’s. A young Jerry Lee Lewis worked at the theater as a lobby boy, and records were commonly set by shows housed at Paramount Theater.

As the late 1900s began, the Paramount Theater (renamed at some point in the early 20th century) hit hard times. Rising property and insurance costs, as well as a steady drop in sales, caused the theater to shut down in 1986. Since its closing, the theater has seen several failed attempts at restoration, as well as one very recent plan to convert its old space into apartments.

No progress has been made yet in the many attempts to reopen the Paramount Theater; however, stores have operated through the theater’s old lobby, giving a small group of people the chance to explore the old stage which existed behind the shop walls. For now, it seems like the Paramount Theater’s lights won’t be on again anytime soon, but its façade stays a pleasant reminder of Newark’s heyday to look upon during the weekly Chipotle trip.

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