A History of The Paramount Theater New York, 50 Years after The Animals Played There for The First Time
On September 4, 1964 The Animals played its first show at the Paramount Theater in New York City. Considering that Eric Burdon and The Animals became one of the biggest names in the British invasion and rock 'n' roll in general, this marks a major moment in American music history. It wasn't The Paramount's first historical event nor would it be the last. Check the timeline of events below to learn a little something about the historic venue.
November 19, 1926: Grand Opening
The Paramount opened near Times Square during the fall of 1926 and immediately broke the New York box office record for sales within one week, totaling $80,000. The showcase of the theater was technically the films it showed but most knew that the Wurlitzer organ—one of the biggest the company had ever built at 33 tons—was the the real star.
December 1935: Music Debuts at The Paramount
Saxophonist Glen Gray and his band were the first musical act to perform at The Paramount, during the week of Christmas nine years following the opening of the venue. He specialized in the big-band style of jazz and many prominent names of the era would follow in his footsteps. The Paramount became renowned within the scene, hosting Jack Benny, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller and many more.
December 30, 1942: The "Bobbysoxer Riots"
We're well familiar with Beliebers and Directioners and Little Monsters and Swiftians (or whatever they're called) in this decade. Frank Sinatra was the first to have a named fan group however: The Bobbysoxers (it's a fashion term from the time...we don't know). Scores of young ladies would form mobs outside of venues hosting their hero and lose their minds when he appeared. This phenomena first became evident during his long residency at The Paramount, causing disruptions that Time would describe as "Not since the days of...Valentino has American womanhood made such unabashed public love to an entertainer." The events would also lead record labels to realize that perhaps young people, and not 40-50 year-olds, were their primary audience.
November 1956: Love Me Tender debuts
Elvis Presley was to make his film debut in The Reno Brothers when his song "Love Me Tender" sold a million copies upon release. The studio of 20th Century Fox realized its mistake and renamed the film Love Me Tender as well. Presley still didn't get main billing on the film posters but he sure did at The Paramount, where a huge paperboard version of the performer covered the front of the building to mark its debut. Again, thousands of delirious fans stood to catch a glimpse of the star.
February 21, 1966: Closure
After nearly 40 years The Paramount closed following its last event, a showing of the James Bond film Thunderball. The New York Times moved into the space after it was gutted and the marquee removed.
1968: The Organ
The good news is that the historic Wurlitzer organ wasn't lost in the closure of the historic venue. It was moved during 1968 to the Century II Convention Hall in Wichita, KS, where it remains and is still played to this day. Richard Simonton of Los Angeles had held onto the massive instrument during the years in between.
2003: Music returns...
...Kind of. After being used by a series of companies and retail developments, Hard Rock Cafe moved its New York location into the building. So at least the music has returned, somewhat. Among the cool things you can now check at the venue are the original doors to Abbey Road studios.