By Sarah Beth Costello
February 28, 2009
A trip to Downtown Burlington is truly a step back in time.
Though much has changed in the past 80 years, the area still contains remnants of the past. There is an old-fashioned drug store and an “Andy Griffith”-like barbershop. Zack’s Hotdogs resembles an old diner and the downtown drug store continues to operate like one from the 1940s.
“I think [the Paramount] is a real treasure in out county,” said Deborah Cobb, co-owner and director of the Arts Alive Fine Arts Studio in downtown Burlington. “It’s a wonderful facility steeped in the rich history of our county that very few have experienced.”
The building originally existed as a movie house in the late 1920s that only charged ten cents a pop for admission. During it’s hey-day, the movie house was known as “The Grand” and was one of several local movie theaters in the area.
In 1929, the owner of The Grand, J.R. Qualls, changed the name of the movie house to “The Paramount.” Eighty years later, the
theater continues to operate and is well known throughout Alamance County as The Paramount Theater.
In 1973, several theaters were demolished, but the Paramount survived and remains the only 1920s-era theater left in the county. Four years later, dramatic change occurred at the Paramount when Gallery Players began using the theater for live-stage productions. Over the course of the next several years, the Paramount Project Committee worked to renovate the theater.
Acting troupes and drama organizations have taken advantage of the accessibility of the theater. Gallery Players continues to thrive, produce and perform several stage productions each year, and is currently in the midst of a performance of “The King and I.
The Arts Alive Fine Arts Studio frequently uses the Paramount Theater for drama and dance performances. Arts Alive has begun casting for the drama, “The Hiding Place,” and plans to debut in the Paramount in June.
“I like the fact that [the Paramount] is right there in downtown,” said junior, Julie Brown who participated in several drama productions at the Paramount during high school.
Brown has fond memories from the many plays she acted in and commented that the most memorable moment for every play was “the intro that puts butterflies in your stomach.” The Paramount Theater has a pre-recorded introduction that is played before the start of every performance.
Brown also enjoys the easy access to relaxation, which is convenient during stressfull tech weeks. “I like how, when we have breaks, we can go out in the depot and play volleyball,” said Brown, “And when we have a bunch of kids [in a production] we can take them outside between shows.”