Thursday, November 4, 2010

Paramount Theatre Chilliwack -The Final Curtain

Paramount Theatre Chilliwack B.C. © Ian Meissner
On November 3, 2010 the Paramount Theatre in Chilliwack, British Columbia, closed its doors for the last time.  Beset by competitive factors including the construction of an 8-plex Galaxy Theatre, underway in Chilliwack's new Eagles Landing, the decision to close early was made this week when the Paramount's boiler gave its last gasp.  A new $20,000 boiler wasn't in the cards so after 61 years this fine building is shut.

The Paramount Theatre opened June 9, 1949 and was billed as being "completely ultra-modern in every respect" including the modern miracle of air conditioning, soft restful spring chairs, sound installation and a popcorn and candy bar in the lobby.  "Six hundred and eight people will be accommodated on the first floor and 292 on the balcony of the new theatre."  Because the floor is curved and the screen mounted high it was boasted that "even the shortest customer will be able to see over the tall lady with the high featured hat".

P2573 © Chilliwack Museum

The theatre was built, as were all the Famous Player Theatres at the time, on a theme  - the Paramount was supposed to look like a cruise ship.  That's why the steps in the foyer are curved like that and why there are circular "porthole" lighting scones in the theatre.  These wall lights used to have fake fish in them to complete the look. 

An immense outdoor sign extending the full height of the building boldly proclaimed the word "Paramount" accented by blinking lights running down the side.  This sign has become a landmark in Chilliwack adding a splash of needed colour to the downtown core.  It will be sorely missed by many.

Solidly built the Paramount featured laminated firewalls, 800 yards of reinforced concrete in the main walls and 60 tons of structural steel. The largest of the cantilevered steel guiders being 24-inch I-beams equal in size to any single steel beam in the Pattulo bridge. 

In 1977 a second screen was added converting the former balcony section into a new theatre.

There have been 22,427 days since the Paramount Theatre opened during which time tens of thousands of films have been shown.  For many people it was the place to take a first date, where new friends were found lining up in the early afternoon for an evening showing of Harry Potter and always a place to be entertained. 

Thousands of personal stories have been started at the Paramount theatre, and that is why I was so pleased, when, I  learned today that the Landmark Cinemas of Canada had made a generous donation of the land and building to the City of Chilliwack. Landmark that was a class act!  Thank you there are too few buildings with any real architectural merit in Chilliwack.  While it is too early to know what the City is planning it is nice to know that Chilliwack to running the coming attraction.

Thank you © Stephen Mullock

Imagine living here.

P.S. I'd like to thank Ian Meissner for the picture he took of the Paramount's last night.  Also, I had a lot of help from Shannon at the Chilliwack Museum Archive and much of the information comes from sources found there - thank you.

 Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 29 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge, friendly service that is usually on time; you’ll be happy you did.


  1. What a great write up Steve and the photos of past and present are wonderful. I liked it when it had the balcony seats. Saw "Woodstock" there as well as a lot of other movies. I see Auld Philips was around then too. Great memories.


  2. Received via email:

    Alison wrote:
    "In it's hey-day the Paramount was a hot place to go. I remember seeing my first movie ever there - Paint Your Wagon. Then there was the time that my friend Karen's dad took us downtown and signed us in to Saturday Night Fever (you had to have a parent's permission to watch this racy movie!). And then there was "The Hindenburg" - the zepplin disaster movie where the bottom fell out of a friend's orange soda, just before the movie started! On a Friday or Saturday night, everyone was there and the theatre was full. The architecture of the building was astounding as well. More recently it was like "stepping back in time" to a bygone era.

    Kudos to Landmark for returning the property to the City of Chilliwack! What a wonderful gift!

    Good-bye old friend!"

  3. Received via email:

    Ian wrote:
    Just a thought...... The theatre was open for 22,000 days, was it possible to show 10's of thousands of movies?

    As an aside Frank Beaton and his brother Russell were on the construction crew in '49

  4. Leigh-Anne wrote:
    That's so touching Alison. Weirdly enough I even found myself getting a little choked up. I saw my first movie there too, The Jungle Book. I remember seeing Titanic there, going to short run foreign films like Amelie and Spirited Away, and watching The Sixth Sense through my fingers. On big memory is standing in line to watch the first Harry Potter, I met two new friends in line that I still see from time to time. I'm going to miss the curtains opening to reveal the screen and being able to sit in the balcony seats (I always preferred when a movie was upstairs).

  5. "Good-bye old friend!"

    Indeed! I have many memories of the Paramount. The modern theaters just don't have character. Great write up, by the way.


  7. i am starting a fundraiser to save the paramount from being torn down!! i have already contacted the city

  8. Hi, My name is Mikeila Bellavance, I am 16 years old and I go to Sardis Secondary School. As I read this, I was overcome with tears. From the time when I was a year old until I was 11 years old, my father (Rick Bellavance) was the manager of that theatre and my mother was the janitor. I used to play there almost every single day and the only childhood I remember ever having, was the one that someday I would become the next manager after my dad. It was my favourite place. I felt like the luckiest kid in the world having that place for myself. I knew every crack and cranny. No spot was too uninteresting for me. Sometimes my dad would let me help rip the tickets or serve popcorn. Driving by now and seeing what has become of it sometimes makes me feel like part of my childhood has been boarded up never to be rediscovered again. Thank you so much for trying to save the Paramount! You have no idea how that would impact me. I want to help in any way I can. I love the Paramount so much. Thank you.