Designed by legendary movie-house architect John Eberson and opened to the public as a vaudeville palace in 1915, the venue enjoyed performances by the likes of Harry Blackstone and Katharine Hepburn in its heyday. But things fell into decline during the 1960s as televisions became commonplace, more people migrated to the suburbs, and the stage’s trapdoor spontaneously grew fangs. The Paramount’s multi-tiered seating and historic ceiling murals languished in the theater’s years to follow as a tragically underused B-movie cinema.
In 1973, three men—John M. Bernardoni, Charles Eckerman, and Stephen L. Scott—formed a corporation with the ultimate goal of rescuing the Paramount, by that time slated for destruction. Soon, live performers were regularly supplementing a classed-up movie schedule, and the stage was graced by such artists as Dave Brubeck and Debbie Allen. The theater’s star rose ever higher in the ‘80s and ‘90s as the curtains introduced the world to such lasting works as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the Greater Tuna series. Today, the lovingly built and rebuilt artifact is a constant reminder of Austin’s long history of arts appreciation.