Many long – time residents of Northeast Louisiana have fond remembrances of the old Paramount Theater building, once located at 301 DeSiard Street.
The building started life back in 1912 as the second Sugar Brothers Opera House. Brothers Barney, Sam and Isador Sugar built it. Stores and shops were on the ground floor. It was sold to Saenger Brothers Theater Feb. 1, 1916.
Early in 1921, Saenger Theater completely remodeled it. It now seated 950 and had a “dancing floor” where the boards were standing on edge instead of laying flat. Curtains and drapes were turquoise blue with gold trimmings. The screen was 18 feet high and 24 feet wide. The stage was 50 feet deep.
The organ, a Mouller Four Manual Duplex Concert Organ was originally to have been installed in the Princess Theater, Meridian, MS. It was too small, so Monroe got it!
The Saenger reopened May 4, 1921 to a showing of Cecil B. DeMille’s “Forbidden Fruit”. The theater hosted Vaudeville,opera, drama, musical comedy as well as movies.
Stars such as Jenny Lind, Madam Schumann Heinke (who taught Emmy Lou Biedenharn!), John Philip Sousa and his band, Mickey Daniels and Mary Kornman from “Our Gang”, Sarah Bernhardt, the Ziegfeld Follies, Ray Bolger, Tom Mix, Eddie Cantor, Joan Crawford, W.C. Fields, Jack Benny and Burns and Allen all appeared on the Saenger stage. A nude show came, called Artists and Models. The players just posed. If you stood still, it was art; if you moved, it was pornography!
In August, 1930, the Saenger became the Paramount. The last full-stage production was Jan. 7, 1938 “You Can’t Take It With You.”. Prices were 55 cents to $2.75. The Paramount now exclusively showed movies.
On May 27, 1970 the “Mighty Morton” pipe organ was moved to Thomas Jefferson Junior High School. Unfortunately, the beloved Paramount was torn down in 1972.