Paramount Theater History
Originally built as a 1500-seat movie palace by Publix Pictures, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures, the Peekskill Paramount Theater first opened its doors to the public with great fanfare on June 27, 1930. The Inaugural program featured an overture by the Paramount Symphony Orchestra, an appearance by the village mayor, and “A Paramount All-Talking Picture”, The Big Pond, starring Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert.
At the time, Publix Theaters was recognized as a leader in the theater building industry, and the Peekskill Paramount was constructed as a state-of-the-art facility unrivalled in the region. Designed by the noted architectural firm of George and Charles Rapp, who designed great theater all across the country, the Paramount boasted “a mammoth cooling and air conditioning plant, a beautifully furnished lounge, rest rooms and many other exclusive features.” It even had a great Wurlitzer theater organ, which rose from the pit, played for years by Banks Kennedy.
The Paramount prospered for decades despite the Depression and World War II. However, it was the advent of shopping malls and television that brought on its demise as a movie theater. Paramount sold the building in 1973. Eventually the building was acquired by the City of Peekskill in 1977 due to a tax default.
The Paramount Theater has been designated a Westchester County Landmark and is on the New York state and National Registers of Historic Places. In 2006, a $1 Million grant from NY State along with generous support from Entergy Corporation allowed the theater to be restored to initial glory.
Today the newly dubbed Paramount Hudson Valley is managed and operated by the non profit Paramount Hudson Valley Arts 501(C)(3) with a goal of making this landmark theater a destination for the very best of live music and performing arts.
Incorporated in 2013 as a 501 (C)(3), not for profit arts organization, Paramount Hudson Valley Arts (PHVA)’s mission is to provide quality performing arts and arts education programs to the diverse and under-served community of Peekskill and northern Westchester County. We endeavor to establish accessible and professional arts programming in theater, film, music, and fine arts for schools, universities, centers for seniors, and health programs. We provide internships, technical training, theater related workshops, master classes, and seminars in art administration. We sponsor, produce, present, promote, and collaborate in the presentation of music concerts, plays, art exhibitions, and special events to benefit the community and regional social welfare of Peekskill, northern Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, and Dutchess Counties.
Our programs include theater, dance, music, fine arts, story telling and poetry readings, and other cultural activities, as well as related workshops, master classes and lecture/discussions. PHVA particularly seeks to develop new work that celebrates Peekskill’s rich history and culture. Annual program highlights include Black History Month programs; fall and spring Shakespeare residencies for family audiences; a Hispanic Heritage Month festival; and an annual Film Convention featuring 35mm and 70mm films: world-class opera, orchestras, chamber ensembles and quartets, jazz, dance and theater. Our cultural programs are presented at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater through our residency at this landmark venue in Peekskill.