Hopes of turning the Paramount into a live theatre venue didn't pan out.

Theatre's next feature presentation will be divine: Downtown Paramount will undergo religious conversion
Edmonton Journal
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Page: B2
Section: Cityplus
Byline: Tim Lai
Dateline: EDMONTON
Source: The Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Coming soon at Jasper Avenue's Paramount Theatre: The Word.

It's not the name of a new movie, but the actual thing -- from God, that is.

But while the Paramount once featured only first-run movies, this one is a reprise, of sorts. In the 1950s, then premier Ernest Manning used it for broadcasting his weekly Sunday morning Back to the Bible Hour radio shows.

The City Centre Church said Friday it has reached a five-year lease with the owner of the building to hold services there starting Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

"When we saw this great old building downtown, we hoped that we could be the tenants," said Kevin Fricker, lead pastor.

Prior to the move, the 400-member Pentecostal congregation rented space in the Telus Centre at the University of Alberta. This Easter, though, it held a service at the Paramount, during negotiations for full-time rental.

Fricker said the move will give the church a venue to hold activities during the week and be a community service in the continued revitalization of downtown.

Renovations are ongoing, as dozens of parishioners have been scrubbing seats, washing floors, cleaning walls and building two kids' rooms for weeks.

But Fricker said the feel of the theatre, which opened in 1952, will remain.

"We want to maintain the history of the building and pay respect to that," said Fricker of the theatre that has a capacity for 650 people.

The Paramount had 1,500 seats when it opened on July 1, 1952, as the city's largest cinema. Its stonework included marble from Italy.

During a renovation in 1985 the theatre sacrificed seating capacity for greater comfort. But it could not compete against multiplexes and was closed in 2003.

There were hopes it would re-open with live theatre, music and other entertainment.

Procura Real Estate Investment Ltd. bought the Paramount and surrounding buildings in October for an undisclosed price.

Fricker said he hopes to attract more people to the congregation, given its central location between the U of A and Grant McEwan College, two of its main drawing points.

The official opening will be Sept. 10. The church hopes to open the building up to community leagues next year.

And don't worry about the Paramount sign.

"It's staying, but we're putting up 'Home of City Centre Church,' " said Fricker.