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Longtime residents recall favourite Paramount Theatre memories

Paramount Theatre in 1960, around the time Don Burnett saw his first movie.
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March 28, 2016 - 2:30 PM

"THIS HERD OF COWS WAS COMING TOWARDS US ON THE SCREEN AND I DUCKED DOWN UNDER MY MOM'S FEET"

KELOWNA – Tonight will be the last chance for people to say goodbye to a Kelowna landmark which played a big part of many residents' childhoods.

RJ Bennett, the son of former Premier Bill Bennett, was 19-years-old on June 16, 1949 when the Empress Theatre opened on Bernard Avenue and he was there. He can’t remember what movie was playing or who he went with, but it wouldn’t be the last time he bought a ticket for the iconic cinema.

The Empress Theatre would eventually be bought by Landmark Cinemas and renamed Paramount. It was announced last month that tonight, March 28, would be the last chance to see a show in the nearly 70-year-old theatre.

“I don’t remember who I was with but I do remember mayor Jack Ladd came out to give a speech,” Bennett says. “He walked out on stage, reached in his pockets, patted his pockets and he’d forgot his speech. He turned and walked off the stage.”

Bennett can't remember the audience's reaction, but he felt sorry for the mayor.

“He just clammed up.”

Also there during the early years was the owner of Burnett’s Nursery, Don Burnett. He was around five-years-old in 1955 when he saw his very first movie at Paramount.

A man and his daughter walk by the Paramount Theatre in downtown Kelowna.
A man and his daughter walk by the Paramount Theatre in downtown Kelowna.

“I just remember going with my parents and my sister,” he says. “It was a cowboy show and this herd of cows was coming towards us on the screen and I ducked down under my mom’s feet. I remember the reality of it. I thought for sure it was all real.”

Burnett says the theatre became the setting for countless awkward, romantic moments after that first experience.

“I’ve been there many, many times as a teenager,” he says. “Paying 30 cents and those long movies, holding a girls hand and sweating the whole time.”

For the last week, to honour the theatre’s history, Paramount has been showing movies from milestone years in its history.

For the final night happening this evening, Abbott and Costello’s Africa Screams, Orson Welles’ The Third Man, Beverly Hills Cop, Harry and the Hendersons and Batman v Superman will be shown for only $3. One dollar will go to Kids Help Phone.

“Tonight will probably be the busiest night of the last week,” Paramount manager Chris Parsons says. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

For showtimes visit the Paramount Theatre website.

Do you have a memory of the Paramount Theatre to share? Use the comments section below.

The Paramount Theatre sign in Kelowna is not heritage protected.
The Paramount Theatre sign in Kelowna is not heritage protected.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at aproskiw@infonews.ca or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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