Paramount History

Very few places in Austin can make this claim! With all of the new development happening around Austin, and specifically right here on Congress Avenue, it’s truly remarkable that Austin’s original performing arts venue has stood the test of time. As one of the first – and few remaining – examples of early and distinctive theatrical architecture, the Paramount stands as a testament to how important the venue is to the community and the cultural landscape that makes Austin unique. Once you’re here, you can’t help but feel you’ve entered a special place that wraps itself around you, making you feel welcome, timeless and inclusive, both with other members of the audience and the performance itself. From Houdini to Katharine Hepburn, to current artists like Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett and Sheryl Crow, the Paramount, and its audiences, have seen it all over the past 100 years…here’s to the next century!

Watch the video below to see highlights from our kick-off event!

Just the Facts

  • The Paramount hosts more than 200,000 audience members each year
  • Literally millions of patrons have seen a performance within these walls
  • The Paramount hosts 250+ performances a year
  • Over the years, it is estimated that as many as 10,000 artists have graced the Paramount stage
  • The Paramount screens 100+ films each year
  • The Paramount provides access to the performing arts to over 20,000 underserved youth each year
  • The theatre plays host to multiple film premieres each year and to some of Austin’s most iconic festivals including SXSW, the Austin Film Festival and many more
  • The Paramount launched the Moontower Comedy Festival in 2012 and is one of the largest comedy festivals in the country

Lights, camera, action!

Opening as a vaudeville house in 1915, the Paramount Theatre soon changed with the times to become Austin’s grand movie palace. The Paramount served film lovers as a first-run theatre for many years before the decline of downtown Austin. Since then, it has presented numerous world premieres independently and continues to do so in partnership with the Austin Film Society and festivals like South by Southwest and the Austin Film Festival. In addition to showcasing new films, the Paramount has also played host to the annual Summer Classic Film Series, which will celebrate a milestone 40th season in 2015. With its historic architecture and devotion to 35mm and 70mm film exhibition, the Paramount remains the best venue in town for taking in a classic movie and recapturing the glorious atmosphere of cinema’s golden age. The Paramount marquee has long been the most coveted spot in town for films both old and new.

Below is a list of just a few Paramount film premieres:

  • The Fabulous Texan (1947) (World)
  • Batman (1966) (World)
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (World)
  • Chef (World) (SXSW)
  • Veronica Mars (World) (SXSW)
  • Spring Breakers (U.S.) (SXSW)
  • 21 Jump Street (World) (SXSW)
  • The Cabin in the Woods (World) (SXSW)
  • Girls (TV Series) (World) (SXSW)
  • Killer Joe (U.S.) (SXSW)
  • Source Code (World) (SXSW)
  • I Love You, Man (World) (SXSW)
  • Drag Me to Hell (World) (SXSW)
  • A Prairie Home Companion (U.S.) (SXSW)
  • Pleasantville (U.S.) (AFF)

Paramount Timeline

  • October 11, 1915 – The Paramount opens as the Majestic Theatre with the comedy play When Knights Were Bold
  • 1916 – World-famous magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, performs on multiple nights
  • 1920s – The theatre converts into a “grand movie palace” showing silent films accompanied by a live orchestra or the theatre’s in-house organ. Some live performances are still done
  • 1930 – Paramount Pictures buys the theatre and begins running Paramount Studio-only films. The Paramount blade is erected. Live performances continue, featuring legendary stage actress like Helen Hayes
  • 1935 – The State Theatre movie palace, opens next door
  • 1940s – During the war, the Paramount promoted war bonds – selling $8.4 million in bonds from 1942-1945. The US Treasury awarded the theatre with several citations and awards for its efforts
  • 1941 – Katharine Hepburn performs The Philadelphia Story on the Paramount stage
  • 1947 – The film The Fabulous Texan made its world premiere at the Paramount, solidifying the Paramount as Austin’s favored premiere movie house
  • 1963 – The Paramount blade is removed from building “to be refurbished,” never to be seen again
  • 1966 – Batman film premieres at the Paramount with stars in attendance
  • Late 1960s to 1973 – The theatre had fallen into disarray and became a “B movie house” showing low-grade flicks to sparse audiences
  • 1973 – John Bernardoni, Charles Eckerman and Stephen Scott rescue the theatre – slated for demolition – with grand ideas of bringing back live performances
  • 1974 – The original fire curtain is discovered hanging in the rafters – protected from light and other elements for over 50 years – in pristine condition. Most likely it is the oldest remaining original fire curtain in the country. Of course, it still hangs in the theatre today
  • 1975 – The Paramount goes from a for-profit business to a nonprofit, 501c organization in order to create a sustainable model and to help with upcoming restoration efforts that will require donations from the community. In addition, property owner, Roberta Crenshaw, donates 50% of her ownership to the Paramount, a requirement for a proposed grant that would anchor the restoration funding
  • 1975 – The three saviors begin raising the $2.2 million required for the restoration
  • 1975 – The Paramount’s Summer Classic Film Series is established, making 2015 the 40th anniversary of the Austin institution
  • April 22, 1976 – The Paramount celebrates the return of live performances with a concert by jazz great Dave Brubeck, who plays to a packed house
  • May 6, 1977 – The Paramount was the scene of a state historical marker dedication
  • July 8, 1977 – The theatre earns its spot on the National Register of Historic Places
  • September 1977 – The Restoration Fundraising and Planning Campaign begins with actual restoration efforts already getting underway
  • 1979 – The fundraising ends with nearly $2.2 dollars in hand and the project nearly completed
  • 1982 – Best Little Whorehouse in Texas film premieres at the Paramount with movie stars Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton and Charles Derning, along with a parade down Congress Avenue
  • 1982 – Greater Tuna starring Jaston Williams and Joe Sears arrives at the Paramount to record number crowds and quickly establishes itself as an annual tradition and making the Paramount its home in Austin
  • Late 1990s – The Paramount begins talks with the State Theater next door to expand each organizations role in the community and the arts
  • 2000 – The Paramount and the State merge to form the Austin Theatre Alliance
  • 2012 – The Paramount creates and launches the nationally recognized Moontower Comedy Festival
  • July 10, 2014 – President Barack Obama speaks at the historic theatre, marking the first time a sitting President has graced our stage
  • September 23, 2015Blade relighting ceremony with parties and a celebratory Patty Griffin concert to follow
  • October 11, 2015 – The Paramount officially reaches the centennial mark! The celebration is to be culminated with the lighting of the newly installed, historically accurate 47-foot blade

The Who’s Who

Today, we encourage each of the performers who grace our stage, to sign our backstage “Artist Wall.” Scroll to browse through a comprehensive list of Paramount performers:

Anthony Bourdain
Aaron Aryonpur
Adam Carolla
Alex Koll
Amazing Jonathan
Amy Poehler
Amy Schumer
Andy Kindler
Anjelah Johnson
Anthony Jeselnik
Ari Shaffir
Aziz Ansari
“Big” Jay Oakerson
Bill Burr
Bill Cosby
Bill Engvall
Bill Hader
Bill Maher
Bo Burnham
Bob Newhart
Bob Saget
Brian Posehn
Brian Regan
Broken Lizard
Cactus Pryor
Carlos Mencia
Carrot Top
Cheech & Chong
Chelsea Handler
Chelsea Peretti
Chevy Chase
Chris D’elia
Craig Ferguson
Dame Edna
Dana Carvey
Dave Attell
Dave Barry
Dave Chappelle
Dave Foley
David Cross
David Spade
Def Poetry Jam
Demetri Martin
Dennis Miller
Don Rickles
Eddie Izzard
Elayne Boosler
Ellen Degeneris
Esther’s Follies
Frank Caliendo
Fred Armisen
Gabriel Iglesias
George Carlin
George Lopez
Hannibal Burress
Ira Glass
Jack Black
James Adomian
Jamie Foxx
Janeane Garafalo
Jeff Foxworthy
Jeff Ross
Jen Kirkman
Jim Carey
Jim Gaffigan
Jim Jefferies
Jim Norton
Joan Rivers
John Hodgman
John Leguizamo
John Oliver
John Ramsey
John Waters
Jr Brow
Judah Friedlander
Julia Sweeny
Kathleen Madigan
Kathy Griffin
Kids In The Hall
Larry Miller
Larry The Cable Guy
Levi McDougal
Lewis Black
Lisa Lampanelli
Louis C.K.
Lucas Molandes
Mac Blake
Marc Maron
Margaret Cho
Maria Bamford
Martin Short
Marx Brothers
Matt Bearden
Michael Che
Michael Ian Black
Mike MacRae
Mike Birbiglia
Mitch Hedberg
Mo Rocca
Nick Kroll
Nick Offerman
Nick Swardson
Pat Hazell
Patton Oswalt
Paul Rodriguez
Paul Varghese
Paula Poundstone
Pauly Shore
Phyllis Diller
Ralphie May
Reggie Watts
Reno Collier
Rich Little
Richard Jeni
Ricky Smiley
Robert Rodriguez
Rodney Dangerfield
Ron White
Russell Brand
Russell Peters
Ryan Cownie
Sam Kinison
Sandra Bernhardt
Sara Silverman
Seth Meyers
Sid Caesar
Smothers Brothers
Stephen Lynch
Steve Martin
Steven Wright
Tenacious D.
The 3 Stooges
Tig Notaro
Tim & Eric
Tim Conway
Tim Minchin
Tracy Morgan
Vicki Lawrence
Vince Vaughn
Wanda Sykes
Weird Al
Whitney Cummings
Will Ferrell
Zach Galifinakis
Bob Newhart
Lily Tomlin
Al Franken
Judy Tenuta
Kevin Smith
Carol Burnett
Ziegfield Follies
Jay and Silent Bob
Latin Comedy Jam
Austin On Tap
Ballet Austin
Ben Vereen
Dance Theatre Of Harlem
Gregory Hines
Helen Hayes
Les Ballets Trockodero De Monte Carlo
Martha Graham Dance Co.
Paul Taylor Dance Co.
Tapestry Dance Company
Tommy Tune
Judd Apatow
Acoustic Alchemy
Al Dimeola
Al Jarreau
Branford Marsalis
Chick Corea
Creative Opportunity Orchestra
Dave Brubeck
Dianne Reeves
Dizzy Gillespie
Gato Barbieri
George Benson
Herbie Mann
Keiko Matsui
Kenny G
McCoy Tyner
Miles Davis
Milton Nascimento
Pat Metheny
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Ramsey Lewis
Return To Forever
Stacey Kent
Stanley Clarke
Stephane Grappelli
Weather Report
Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Mike Super
Peter & The Wolf
The Wiggles
Harry Blackstone
Harry Houdini
The Spencers
Aaron Neville
Afro-Cuban Allstars
Al Dimiola
Alejandro Escovedo
Amos Lee
Andrew Bird
Ani Difranco
Arlo Guthrie
Asleep At The Wheel
BB King
Bela Fleck
Bill Evans Trio
Billy Joe Shaver
Billy Joel
Blue October
Bo Diddley
Bob Schneider
Bobby McFerrin
Bon Iver
Boys Choir Of Harlem
Bright Eyes
Bruce & Kelly
Bruce Hornsby
Bruce Robison
Bryan Adams
Burt Bacharach
Cab Calloway
Carl Thomas
Charlie Musslewhite
Charlie Pride
Charlie Sexton
Chuck Berry
Cindy Walker
Clifford Antone
Count Basie
Cowboy Junkies
Cyndi Lauper
Damien Rice
Daniel Tosh
David Byrne
David Grisman Quartet
David Lindley
Del Castillo
Don McClean
Don Williams
Doug Kershaw
Dr. Hook
Dwight Yoakam
Emmylou Harris
Eric Bibb
Eric Johnson
Freddie Fender
Funk Brothers
Gaelic Storm
Gary Clark Jr.
Gavin McGraw
George M. Cohen
George Thorogood
George Winston
Gilberto Gil
Gino Vanelli
Gladys Knight
Gordon Lightfoot
Grupo Fantasma
Guy Clark
Harry Chapin
Harry Connick Jr.
Iron & Wine
Jack Ingram
Jason Mraz
Jennifer Holiday
Jerry Jeff Walker
Jerry Reed
Jim Brickman
Jim Nabors
Jimmy Buffett
Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Dale Gilmore
JJ Cale
Joan Armatrading
Joan Baez
Joanna Newsom
Joe Bonamassa
Joe Ely
Joe Jackson
Joe Sample
Joe Satriani
Joe Scruggs
John Anderson
John Hiatt
John Klemmer
John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
John McLaughlin
John Philip Sousa
John Prine
Johnny Dee & The Rocket 88’S
Jonny Lang
Julliard String Quartet
K.D. Lang
Keb’ Mo’
Kelly Willis
Kenny G
Kenny Loggins
Kenny Rogers
Kodo Drummers
Kris Kristofferson
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Larry Carlton
Laurie Anderson
Lea Solanga
Lee Ann Womack
Leo Kottke
Leon Redbone
Leon Russell
Little Feat
Little Richard
Los Lobos
Los Lonely Boys
Lou Reed
Lucinda Williams
Lyle Lovett
M. Ward
Madeline Peyroux
Magnetic Fields
Mandy Patinkin
Marcia Ball
Marvin Hamlisch
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mavis Staples
Maynard Ferguson
Mel Tillis
Melissa Etheridge
Michael Franks
Merle Haggard
Metropolitain Opera
Michael Hedges
Michael Martin Murphy
Milton Nascimento
Miss Lou Ann Barton
Moscow Boys Choir
My Morning Jacket
Nanci Griffith
Nancy Wilson
Natalie Cole
Natalie Merchant
Neil Young
Neville Brothers
Norah Jones
Ottmar Liebert
Paco De Lucia
Pat Green
Pat Metheny
Patty Griffin
Peter Cincotti
Peter Frampton
Peter Nero
Peter Tosh
Pinetop Perkins
Pink Martini
Pointer Sisters
Randy Newman
Ravi Shankar
Ray Charles
Ray Price
Richie Havens
Ricki Lee Jones
Ricky Skaggs
Robben Ford
Robert Earl Keen
Roberta Flack
Rodney Crowell
Roky Erickson
Ruben Studdard
Rufus Wainright
Ruthie Foster
Ryan Adams
Sara Hickman
Sarah Vaughan
Sergio Mendes
Shawn Colvin
Shemekia Copeland
Standing Waves
Steve Earle
Steve Fromholz
Sufjan Stevens
Sweet Honey In The Rock
Swell Season
The Cardinals
The Chieftans
The Commodores
The English Beat
The Jayhawks
The Roches
The Swell Season
The Temptations
Thompson Twins
Tibetan Monks
Tiempo Libre
Tish Hinojosa
Todd Snyder
Tom Chapin
Tom Jones
Tom Rush
Tom Waits
Toots and the Maytals
Up With People
Waeather Report
Weird Al Yankovic
White Ghost Shivers
Will Sexton
Willie Nelson
Woodie Guthrie
Woody Allen’s Jazz Band
Wynonna Judd
Yonder Mountain String Band
Zakir Hussein
Kevin Allison – Podcast
Bill Moyers
Clarence Darrow
John Lithgow
Leslie Neilson
Jungle Jack Hanna
Maria Shriver
Turk Pipkin
Liz Gilbert
Rob Bell
Sarah Vowell
Arianna Huffington
David Sedaris
Garisson Keillor
Liz Carpenter
Nora Ephron
Spalding Gray
Armistead Maupin
Dr. Maya Angelou
Kinky Friedman
Rick Perry
Rick Steves
Ken Burns
Dan Rather
Evan Smith
Terry Gross
Walter Cronkite
Edward Albee
Eddie Bracken
Adam West
Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne
Barbara Eden
Bernadette Peters
Betty Buckley
Billy Bob Thornton
Brenda Vaccaro
Burt Reynolds
Carol Channing
Chita Rivera
Debbie Allen
Debbie Reynolds
Debra Winger
Dennis Quaid
Dolly Parton
Elizabeth Hurley
Eric Stoltz
Fess Parker
Flying Karamozov Brothers
Hal Holbrook
Imogene Coca
James Farentino
Jason Patric
Jaston Williams
Joe Sears
John and Ethyl Barrymoore
John C. Reilly
Johnathin Demme
Johnny Depp
Julia Roberts
Katharine Hepburn
Kim Bassinger
Leslie Uggams
Lillian Gish
Lillian Russell
Mae West
Matthew McConaughey
Mitzi Gaynor
Oliver Stone
Olympia Dukakis
Orson Welles
Patrick Wilson
Patty Lupone
Ricardo Chavira
Richard Linklater
Richard Roundtree
Robert Duvall
Robert Redford
Ron Howard
Russell Crowe
Sandra Bullock
Sarah Bernhardt
Shirley MacLaine
Stacy Keach
Sylvester Stallone
Tim Curry
Tommy Lee Jones
Van Heflin
Will Rogers
Woody Harrelson
Diane Keaton
Ed Asner As FDR
Greater Tuna
Tuna Christmas
Mark Twain Tonight!
autograph wall

Sidewalk View
Help us light up the town in 2015

In anticipation of the Paramount Theatre’s 100th anniversary, we are undertaking a truly luminous project: the fabrication and installation of a new, historically accurate blade for the Paramount’s façade. The blade was first installed when Paramount Pictures took over the theatre in the early 1930s. Little is known about what happened to the original blade after 1963, making the 100-year celebration a perfect occasion to re-light the façade in historic fashion. In 1930, the Austin-American Statesman described the blade as a “huge sign, more than 75 feet high [from the sidewalk], and topped with a brilliant sunburst.” We can’t wait to light up Congress Avenue when we flip the switch on the new blade in the fall of 2015!

Visit for more information or to donate to this extraordinary project.


For more history, visit our Centennial site at You can also click here to download a PDF of our 100-year brochure. Download a bundle of a high resolution theatre photos. For any other inquiries, please email