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Classic Cinemas Paramount Theatre

July 22, 2019

  • 213 N. Schuyler Avenue
  • Kankakee, IL 60901
  • (815) 936-6843
  • Website

Did anyone notice how hot it was this weekend?  I mean, I can handle heat but it was oppressive.

J went on a girls weekend trip with some friends to Newaygo so I was home with the kids.  I decided to take Friday off and drive to my parents house in Illinois.  We had planned on leaving the kids there for a week at some point this summer anyway so this week worked out perfectly.

My mom had asked if she could take the kids to see the new Lion King movie sometime this week.  I don’t know why she felt like she needed to ask but I’m glad she did.  I asked if we could go Saturday since it was going to be so hot.  We had to “run to town” anyway to go grocery shopping so we got moving with the idea of making it to the 11 AM show.

I was really excited to be going back to the theatre I saw so many movies at growing up in the area.  I saw Star Wars Episode One, Toy Story, The Blair Witch Project and so many other movies at a classic movie palace that somehow survived.

Classic Cinemas Paramount Theatre is a five screen theater in downtown Kankakee.  The theater is on a block of Schuyler Avenue between Oak and Chestnut.  The original theater dates back to 1931 and it still has the classic marquee hanging over the sidewalk at the entrance.

Paramount Theatre underwent some major renovations in the late 1980’s after the theater fell into disrepair.  It was about to close for good but it was snatched up and saved by Classic Cinemas out of the Chicago suburbs.  The theater is one of Paramount Pictures film studios original movie palaces that initially showed movies only from the Paramount library.

Paramount has been modernized as much as it can but the old bones still leave it pretty limited on what they can do.

The ticket counter is right inside the door.  There are two self service kiosks but as I started to punch in the order, a guy came to the window and said it’d be faster if he just did it so I let him.  We got five matinee tickets for The Lion King which came out to $30.

The concession stand is right next to the ticket window.  They have a pretty basic concession stand menu with popcorn, candy, and drinks.  I got two drinks, three Icees, a large bucket of popcorn and a bag of candy.  The large bucket of popcorn is not the large I’m used to with the big national chains so I went back and got another after we got settled.  The great thing about this theater is there is free refills on drinks, Icees, and popcorn included in the price.  We definitely took advantage of the refills on Icees for the kids but the two buckets of popcorn were more than enough.  Total costs was a little over $36 which I found to be incredibly cheap.  We usually drop $50+ at the chains here in Kalamazoo.

You really start to see the history of the theater when you head towards the auditorium.  The set up is more like a stage theater than a movie theater.  There are three sets of wood doors that open directly into the auditorium.  There is no light blocking maze and no stadium seating.

The number of seats in the auditorium has been drastically cut down since I used to go to movies here.  They’ve been able to keep the same layout which is a gradual slope from the entrance to the screen with three sections of seating separated by a large aisle way.

The number of seats has been reduced because they have put in the luxury recliners instead of the old stadium seats.  In it’s heyday, Paramount Theatre’s main auditorium had room for 1300. It was cut down to somewhere around 800 and now it’s down to just over 300 with the larger, more comfortable recliners.

I, unfortunately, couldn’t get any good pictures of the decor in the theater due to the low lighting.   The auditorium looks exactly how you would expect a movie palace from the 1930’s to look.  The auditorium was originally constructed in the art deco style and it was restored to it’s former glory in 1995 by a local painter.

In the early 1990’s, Classic Cinemas was facing a challenge of a new mall being built in Bradley and along with that new mall, a newer, modern movie theater.  In order to expand, they added a new building in what used to be a parking lot next door and expanded with four new theaters.  These theaters are much smaller than the main auditorium but they were decorated in the same style.  I saw a number of movies (the one that sticks out the most is The Postman) in these smaller theaters but I always tried my best to see movies in auditorium #1.

I was so happy to get to have this experience again.  I did forget in Illinois when they say a movie starts at 11:15, the actual movie starts at 11:15….not the previews.  We walked in just as The Circle of Life was starting.  It’s been sooo long since I’ve been here and it was such a part of my teen years.  Yes, I went to movies at Classic Cinemas other theater (Meadowview) and I saw movies at Cinemark theaters at the mall, but anytime I could see a movie in this classic old movie palace I would make it a point to do so and even though my kids won’t appreciate it, I’m glad they had the opportunity as well.


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