June 30, 2014
We're thinking of becoming local college basketball fans — not necessarily because we love the sport, but because we're dying to get inside this Long Island University gymnasium that was once the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre. Commissioned in 1928 by Paramount Pictures, with a sister theatre in Times Square, this regal venue was the largest movie theatre in Brooklyn, second largest in the city, and the first theatre designed for talking pictures. Noted theatre architects Rapp and Rapp designed the rococo-style palace with 4,084 burgundy velvet seats, a ceiling painted with clouds, a 60-foot stage curtain decorated with satin-embroidered pheasants, huge chandeliers, and tiered fountains filled with goldfish.
Movie houses struggled during the depression years, and by 1936 the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre had lost $1.5 million since opening. In 1950 Long Island University purchased the building, and twelve years later they renovated the auditorium as their gymnasium keeping the original, ornate details of the space intact. The LIU Blackbirds played their first game in 1963, and in 1975 a second renovation occurred thanks to funding from local businesses.
We uncover the storied past of this grand movie palace