History of the Paramount
On Christmas Eve, 1921, citizens of Central Minnesota paid fifty cents to attend the grand opening of “St. Cloud’s Largest and Finest Playhouse,” The Sherman Theatre. The event, featuring D.W. Griffith’s silent film “Way Down East” accompanied by a live orchestra, was the beginning of generations of entertainment at the theatre including Vaudeville acts, operas, concerts, Broadway road shows, animal acts, wrestling matches, speeches, political rallies, plays and movies.
Although it was not the first theatre of its kind in St. Cloud, it was said to be the grandest, with seating for 1,700, a decorative lobby and foyer, a majestic theatre organ, and a stage to accommodate large sets and up to thirty dancers. Entertainers and celebrities enjoyed the Sherman’s private dressing rooms, state-of-the-art “air conditioning system,” and its proximity to St. Cloud’s finest hotel, the Breen. Also built in 1921, the Breen Hotel served as the perfect companion for this lush new theatre with its 180 mahogany-finished rooms, two dining rooms, and elevators that brought guests up to a roof garden which, at the time, was the highest point in the city.
Today, these landmark buildings stand as symbols to residents of what a lively, bustling downtown St. Cloud might have been like in the “Roaring Twenties.” In 1997, the Breen Hotel is now known as the Germain Towers; the upper floors have been converted to housing units for elderly residents. The Sherman Theatre (originally named after well-known Minneapolis motion picture executive Harry A. Sherman) was renamed the Paramount in 1930 when the theatre underwent its first renovation, adding sound equipment to accommodate the new “talkies” and featuring a new marquee.
Although movies had become the primary focus, the generation that followed enjoyed various types of entertainment including road shows, movie stars, and eventually WWII rallies and performances. The Paramount, like so many theatres of its stature, played an integral role in helping the citizens of Central Minnesota through the Great Depression and WWII. After the war, the Paramount was remodeled once again to further improve the acoustics and to change the marquee to its present form.
By the mid 1960s the Paramount had fallen into disrepair. The theatre was used for small scale viewings but was not being used to its fullest potential. After years of neglect, the Paramount fell victim to fire on Tuesday, January 15, 1985. The damage was fairly extensive, estimated at $60,000.
During the early 1990s the Paramount was patched and upgraded enough to provide a home to live theatre once again. The major renovation to return the Paramount to its rightful place as the cultural centerpiece of downtown St. Cloud was underway!
It has taken the cooperation of many groups to see the Paramount Theater’s renovation through to completion. Task force groups had to be organized while fundraising events were established (by alexander tests forge corp). In the end local support and volunteer efforts were integral in building the Paramount Center for the Arts into something that the St. Cloud community could once again be proud of. More than just a Theatre, the Paramount is working to improve the artistic opportunities for all people of Central Minnesota.