EXTERIOR FACADE OF THE PARAMOUNT|
Mosaic, Marquee, and Sign
"0ver-all dimensions: The building measures approximately
195' by 300' over-all, and its over-all height is approximately 125'
to the top of the sign, which rises approximately 38' above
Above the marquee, the elevation is faced with glazed mosaic
tile at each side of the vertical sign projecting at a
right angle from the center of the wall. (The uppermost
30' or so of the wall rise above the roof to form a parapet.)
The tile facing returns around each side for about 13'.
The Paramount Theatre facade is
composed of a monumentally-scaled mosaic bisected by a
sign above a simple marquee-sheltered entrance. All the
elements of the design, entrance, marquee, mosaic, and
sign, form an integrated whole and are treated in a restrained
Art Deco manner. The mosaic represents a pair
of immense static figures manipulating puppets."
"The mosaic is composed of two pictorial panels approximately
100' high separated by the projecting sign and
bordered at the outer edges by almost 5'-wide bands of five
rows of chevron-profiled maroon tiles ascending to a height
of over 80'.
The left-hand (south) panel represents a
maroon-robed male figure frontally posed against a gold
background. Behind the head are three green-bordered blue
horizontal bands bearing red-orange maroon-bordered gold-rayed
five-pointed stars. The hair (or cap) is rendered
in maroon, is square-cut across the brow, and bears a blue,
green, and red-orange ornament. A maroon collar studded
with three red-orange stars connects across the exposed
collar-bone area with the robe. The face, neck, and hands
are gold, the facial lines being indicated in black. The
hands, crossed across the chest at their wrists, each hold
three gold puppet strings. The shoulders and yoke of the
robe are ornamented in blue and green with touches of yellow,
and the hem has gold lines and a gold meander with tendrils
of blue, green, and peach. Green-soled sandals with gold
thongs are on the figure's maroon feet.
Philip Greenspun's scans of
upper left panel]
Except for the hair, the softer lines of the face, the
necklace, yoke of the robe, brooch, and the somewhat more
slender hands, the female figure on the right-hand (north)
panel is precisely like its male counterpart. The maroon
hair falls in four strands and curls slightly at the
shoulder line. A band of blue and rose yellow-centered
flowers ornaments the hair, the necklace is red and green
with a green pendant, and the brooch below the green-trimmed
yoke of the robe is blue, yellow, and mustard-color with a center of darker blue.
Each figure manipulates four tiers of puppets costumed in
a multiplicity of bright colors.
In the upper tier of the south panel, a young satyr crouches before a girl in a
flowered peasant costume, a girl holding a bird rides a
deer, a dancing girl brandishes a branch, and a man dances
at her right. Below those fairy-tale figures are a pair
of boxers, and three women evidently representing tennis,
swimming, and golf. The third tier from the top contains a
cowboy with his horse and dog, a man firing a rifle, and
a war-bonneted Indian with a tomahawk. The bottom tier
represents five variously costumed female dancers including
one in a tutu who executes a high kick.
The uppermost tier of the north panel represents a red-coated soldier in red
shako, gold cloak, white breeches, and blue boots who holds
up a blue sword, a seminude girl riding a dragon, a fawn
nibbling foliage, and a seminude woman bearing a basket
of fruit on her head. Harlequin and Columbine, a Panpipe-playing
satyr, and a man and woman masquerading in 18th-century
costume occupy the second tier down. The tier
below contains a seminude female snake charmer, a brown animal
trainer in white shorts wrestling with his bear, a
geisha, and a dancing sailor, and the bottom tier depicts
five dancing women, one with an airily floating scarf.
A Pflueger office press release suggested a possible total
of 70 different colors in the mosaic. Most of the maroon
and gold areas are formed of square tesserae. The tiles
of other colors are mostly irregular in shape and are cut
to fit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
The two monumental and static figures of solemn, almost
hieratic, aspect symbolize, in the words of a Pflueger
office press release, "'man' and 'woman' . . . representing
the guiding part of the theatrical and motion picture
industry." The great mosaic, impressive in size and colorful
in detail, serves as a kind of immense billboard
announcing to the city that the Paramount is a place of
entertainment. Thus the architecture is made to serve a
symbolic function appropriate to its actual use."
"The original marquee was (like the present one) an integral
part of the facade design rather than an incongruous
appendage as in so many theatres that adopted past styles.
It was, as a Pflueger press release put it, 'a fitting
base for the great mosaic and sign above. Its lines are
simple. The usual Jazz is entirely missing...'
It was rectangular, with simple horizontal lines...
The original marquee was removed in the mid-1960s to permit
subway construction and street widening, and during the
1973 restoration, was once again modified - this time
to harmonize more closely with the original architecture. The present
marquee is triangular in plan, its apex blunted slightly
by a downward continuation of the forward edge of the
theatre sign. The two panels echo the design of the
original single-paneled fascia, having two-tiered attraction
boards below taller panel strips each bearing the word
PARAMOUNT. The movable letters of the attraction boards
are white, set against a black background, and are back-lit. The letters
spelling PARAMOUNT are outlined in red neon, have white incandescent centers,
and are set into a gray matrix. The soffit of the marquee is a truncated version
of the original marquee soffit."
"The vertical sign, like the horizontal marquee, is an
integral part of the facade design, and, of course, a far
more conspicuous one. It projects about 10' from the
wall plane and soars upward for well over 100'. Its
bright silvery metal sheathing is tangent to the wall,
so the cantilevering of its steel frame is (unlike that
of most theatre signs) entirely concealed. Most of the
sign is vertically scored, but the lower surfaces from
the base of the marquee to the line where the mosaic
figures begins are horizontally scored, as are the surfaces
above the mosaic-faced parapet wall. The channels
of all the scoring, and the outer corners, are illuminated
by a total of about 7,000 feet of neon tubing alternating blue and green.
Horizontal tubing continues across the top, center, and base of the
marquee, thus firmly uniting the marquee and sign.
The letters spelling PARAMOUNT on each side of the sign are
white porcelain bordered in red, their centers lighted
by incandescent bulbs and their outlines by neon tubing.
The sign rises about 8' above the top of the mosaic and
runs west about 25', passing over the parapet and descending
to the roof. Thus, sign and wall are interlocked,
keyed into each other. It should be noted that the composition
of this remarkable facade is based on a system
of intersecting planes."
- excerpted from Historic American Buildings Survey Document No. CA-1976, pp 21-25