By Jonathan Smith, Staff Writer
You might not think there’s any difference between the Historic Paramount Theatre Inc. and the Paramount Theatre of Abilene.
That’s the management’s idea.
The Paramount Theatre is recovering from financial difficulties at the end of 2002 under the management of the newly formed non-profit organization, the Historic Paramount Theatre Inc.
“As far as our operations, facility and our programming, there really isn’t any public perception of a difference,” said Barry Smoot, the Paramount’s artistic director.
Though the Paramount was never in danger of closing, financial problems at the end of the year resulted in the old non-profit organization, the Paramount Theatre of Abilene, voting to dissolve itself in favor of one that Smoot said brings more aggressive marketing and fund-raising.
The change was not negative or hostile, Smoot said, and he said he believes the mutual decision to create a new board of directors has been positive.
Since re-establishing the organization, Smoot said the Paramount’s financial problems from last year have subsided, but it, as with most non-profit organizations, financial security is a struggle.
“We’re a non-profit, so we’ll always be concerned with finances,” Smoot said. “But yes, our financial crunch has been lifted, and we’re operating much cleaner and more effectively day to day.”
Smoot said he believes the financial difficulties mirrored most non-profit organizations’ problems following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001-a time he said people stopped spending money.
As part of the new non-profit group’s marketing and fund-raising strategy, the Paramount is in the process of two donation campaigns and is currently beginning work on its summer musical, a major fund-raiser for the theatre.
It has also recently begun showing some current and modern films to attract a different audience, rather than primarily classic films, which will still be part of their regular repertoire.
“One of the reasons we’re showing more modern films is to attract a younger crowd,” Smoot said.
That younger crowd the Paramount is looking for includes college students. ACU rents the Paramount for many events at the Paramount.
Brandon Carter, senior class president, said he could remember almost 20 events he has been to at the Paramount-a place he said he believes is important for college students to experience.
“It’s a place that is significant to the culture of Abilene,” said Carter, integrated marketing communication major from Mounds, Okla. “I think it’s a significant thing that ACU students are able to connect with parts of Abilene’s heritage and tradition.”
That heritage is why Smoot said he believes the Paramount is important to the community.
“I just think it’s very important for the community, both historically and artistically, for this facility to keep its doors open,” Smoot said.
Lori Gilmore, senior integrated marketing communication major from Tulsa, Okla., was a Welcome Week 2002 co-chair and helped organize the showing of The Sandlot to freshmen at the Paramount.
“Going to the Paramount is completely different than going to a normal theatre,” Gilmore said.