The parallels are remarkable.
An historical landmark movie house in the city's downtown. A building that sits empty and unused. A community group battles city hall and tries to raise the necessary funds to save the cinema. But, alas, there was not enough support and demolition is on the horizon.
The theatre's name? The Paramount.
But this Paramount is 4,200 kilometres away in Youngstown, Ohio.
"Youngstown is not the only city that has found it can't save every landmark," writes editorial page editor Dennis Mangan in the Dec. 12 edition of Youngstown's daily newspaper The Vindicator. "Both cities are on the verge of losing their Paramounts."
Mangan contacted the Times this week as he was struck by the similarities he stumbled across online when he found out about Chilliwack's Paramount.
He started out his Wednesday editorial this way: "The theater's seats have been empty for years. The Paramount sign has been removed from the front of the building. The fate of a once grand theater has been sealed; it awaits only the arrival of the wrecking ball."
Other than the American spelling of the word theatre, his words could have appeared in our paper, which was, of course, his point.
Mangan went on to compare the two cities and our Paramounts. News coverage in The Vindicator over recent months similarly could have come from the Times.
"It is a shame because the cityscape is going to be so changed," said Anita Lin in September Vindicator article. Lin is chairwoman of the Paramount Project, a group that wanted to save the building facade and create an amphitheatre. The group is akin to Chilliwack's Save the Paramount group.
"We can't afford that," Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone said of using taxpayer money to save the building in a September article in The Vindicator, also echoing sentiments of our own Mayor Sharon Gaetz. "If [the Paramount Project] can raise that type of money, OK. But we don't have the money to save it."
But the two Parmounts and their histories are quite different. Chilliwack's was built in 1949, and operated for 63 years until 2010 when it was donated to the city by Landmark Cinemas of Canada.
Youngstown's Paramount opened in 1918 as
the Liberty Theatre for vaudeville acts and silent movies with a 1,700-seat auditorium featuring an aquarium and fountain in the lobby, according to a Vindicator story.
"It was sold in 1929 to Paramount Pictures and renamed the Paramount Theatre. It closed in 1976," the paper wrote.
The City of Youngstown bought their Paramount for $80,000 in 2010.
And locally, while there was some consternation about a $350,000 bill to tear down Chilliwack's Paramount, Mangan writes in his editorial that Youngstown should be so lucky.
"Because our Paramount is much older than yours, the building much more unstable and asbestos ubiquitous, I think our city would jump at a $350,000 demolition bill," Mangan told the Times via email.
Their city received an $800,000 grant from the state for demolition, money that came with the expectation that the terra cotta facade would be saved. But even that wasn't enough. A consultant has since determined the bill just to save the facade during demolition would be between $1.3 million and $1.6 million.
In addition to a much cheaper bill for Chilliwack's demolition there is a lesson to be learned from Youngstown's Paramount. That building sat empty and abandoned for decades, something Gaetz said last week would be tragic if it happened to our Paramount.
"It would cost money to board [the Paramount] up and, I also believe, drain the energy from the downtown having another boarded building in the centre of town," she told the Times this month.
Mangan's Dec. 12 editorial agreed.
"Abandonment takes its toll on structures and neigh-borhoods-as 36 years of abandonment proved for the Paramount and Downtown Youngstown."
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