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The Paramount Theatre was built by local philanthropist Horace O. Wooten for the exhibition of first-run movies and stage shows. Wooten engaged local architect David Castle to design the 1,500-seat theatre in an Atmospheric style with a mixed Spanish and Italian courtyard theme for $100,000.
Wooten had established his grain business in Abilene in the late 1800s, from which he began to build his fortune establishing a grocery company which was invaluable to the newly developing community and the West Texas area. Wooten’s business interests were diverse, including farming, ranching, and a railroad business. He was instrumental in the establishment of Abilene’s McMurray College and was the first president of the college’s Board of Trustees.
The Atmospheric interior was noted for its sky-effect ceiling and patio walls “hung with thousands of roses, magnolia blossoms, Spanish creeper and red bougainviglia [sic]”. Behind the faux garden walls rose Italian cypress trees. The predominant colors were “Spanish browns, reds and yellows”. The auditorium was reminiscent of a Spanish hacienda augmented with Italian decorative pieces. Interior decoration work was carried-out by Otto Bowmen, Dallas interior decorator.
In August 1942 the theatre hosted the premiere of Unusual Occupations . In November 1963 it hosted the premiere of Take Her, She’s Mine with stars Jimmy Stewart and Sandra Dee attending in person.
The Paramount closed as a movie theatre in September 1979 and was sold by the Wooten family to the Wolfe Investment Company in October of that year. The theatre was subsequently leased to the Paramount Opry of Abilene, Inc., and reopened in January 1980 as the Paramount Opry. After a three-and-a-half month unsuccessful run as the Opry, and another unsuccessful short run starting in mid-May of the same year as the Paramount Country Music Hall, the Paramount was purchased by the Abilene Preservation League on 31st December 1980.
The Abilene Preservation League formed the Paramount Committee to prevent the building from eminent demolition and successfully applied to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Paramount reopened in May 1987 as a performing arts center, having received funding from Julia Matthews and the Dodge Jones Foundation.
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