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Peekskill's Paramount's CEO, A Putnam Resident, Recalls Theater's 85 Years

Paramount CEO Kurt G. Heitmann, grew up in Peekskill and now lives in Garrison. Photo Credit: Submitted
Peekskill's Paramount Hudson Valley Theater turns 85 June 27. Photo Credit: Submitted

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Peekskill's Paramount Hudson Valley Theater is turning 85 June 27 and according to CEO Kurt G. Heitmann, a Garrison resident, it's going to be a heck of a party.

Daily Voice sat down with Heitmann, who heads Red House Entertainment LLC which operates the theater, to talk history, architecture and rock and roll.

Daily Voice: What should people know about the Paramount?

Kurt Heitmann: Many people would be surprised to know the theater started as a movie palace in the l930s with a Wurlitzer theatre organ which rose from the pit. It was a Publix Picture Theater before being transformed to Paramount Pictures.

It is only one of eight remaining theaters that was designed by Rapp and Rapp Architects out of Chicago. They were known for their elaborate movie palaces and designed about 40 in the 1920s and 30s.

DV: Why is it such an important venue for you?

KH : I grew up in Peekskill and went to the theater a lot with my mom. I also knew a lot of folks who worked there. I'm an audio engineer by trade and always thought it would be cool to semi-retire one day and run this. The timing worked out and here I am. When it went under, I knew I had to do something to help it stay vibrant. It's so beautiful, I wanted to do my part to keep it alive.

DV: Are there any special moments that stick out in your mind?

KH : Being the place that Pete Seeger did his first show and his last live show was pretty special.

DV: What are the challenges of running the Paramount?

KH: We're trying to make it green, with LED lights, etc. but these old theaters are electricity hogs. The biggest challenge is really operational in terms of the heat, the electrical and all of the work that comes with maintaining an old building.

DV: What can people expect at your 85th anniversary party?

KH: The Marshall Tucker Band will be performing with an opening act by Sundown , a band with deep roots in Westchester (bandmember are from Rye Brook, Yonkers, Eastchester and Port Chester).

We'll also be featuring a historical slide show and an exhibition of vintage photos, a special commemorative playbill for concert-goers, raffles and an auction for authenticated signed guitars from some of music’s biggest stars.

It's going to be great. I can only say I hope I look as good at 85 as the Paramount does.

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