An Ode (And Lament) To The Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre in Kamloops BC is closing. The announcement came on Wednesday April 10, 2019, announced late in the day and I saw the news just as I was settling into bed, after rewatching the “Hold The Door” episode of Game of Thrones in a desperate rewatch attempt to beat out the new season with a complete rewatch. I was already emotional from the episode, watching a young Hodor howl “hold the door” over and over, broken by the magic of young Bran Stark’s warging.
It hit me like a kick in the gut, or having the wind knocked out of me.

The Paramount Theatre has been like my home, for many many years. Like so many others in Kamloops, this theatre has been an integral part of my youth, and my young adult life. I remember going here first with my parents. I saw Jurassic Park, The Lion King, Mulan, Titanic, all the movies from a youth of your typical 1990s kid. When I got older, I saw all the horror movies of a young teenager – Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Saw, and all of the sequels.
A night out at the movies would see my best friends and I dressing up in our finest fishnet armwarmers and black nailpolish to impress the guy selling popcorn I guess, and to spend time eating Junior Mints and laughing as dumb bimbos got slaughtered on the screen.

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photos taken by Robin Goodfellow and are not for reuse

There’s a familiar smell of the Paramount Theatre – popcorn of course, but this unnamable scent underpins it all – somewhere in the sunbleached carpet, the old movie posters and the sneer of the old manager who was the least friendly person on the planet exists this aroma that makes me feel instantly relaxed, and like I’m home.

As I nervously stood with Scotty the first time we presented a genre feature with the Kamloops Film Society in October of 2018 – presenting most appropriately, a screening of Panos Cosmatos’s MANDY, that scent made me feel calm, made me feel like I was in the right place at the right time, doing something that is only right and natural to me.

Movies are my life. Growing up the loser with hardly any friends taught me some hard lessons, but what I lacked in friendship, I had in spades in VHS tapes and I watched all the classics well before I even learned to drive. I bought books on film theory and set design when I was still too young to buy booze.

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In many ways, the theatre showed it’s age though – from the rumbling heater that once left us watching movies in the bitter cold Canadian winter, so cold inside the theatre that we could see our breath as we struggled through the Bye Bye Man. Sometimes in the summer, the A/C couldn’t quite keep up, and the beers we had snuck in quite terribly in my oversized purse also didn’t seem to keep us cool.

And yet, this theatre is my favourite theatre, long since favored over the even more horrible multiplex. The multiplex has no soul, long since having removed the light up movie posters from outside, long since having sold out to $20 popcorn combos and ten theatres all showing 630pm showings of Avengers on opening lest any other movie be even given a shot because Hollywood junk is all anyone seems to give a shit about these days.
If I have to watch one more Avengers movie, I will fucking scream.

It seems far too early for the theatre to close – we have only just begun our relationship with the Kamloops Film Society, we have only just begun presenting creepy films to thrill and chill Kamloops residents with.
We have presented Mandy, and Border (for Valentine’s Day), and with the Kamloops Film Festival we presented DarkFest 2019 with screenings of The House That Jack Built and Suspiria (2018) with a special performance from Tristan Risk’s Caravan of Curiosities, leading to photos like this being taken:

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I guess you can add that part of my legacy onto the Paramount Theatre – big booties and high powered tools making big sparks.

I think that’s what kills the most about the loss of the Paramount – just when we had been able to give back and do something right, the hope is gone.
Like so much else in this town, because we have to be real here – Kamloops is a town built on apathy, a city that sorrow built, much like that fucking sick ass National song I listen to whenever I need to depression sob out all my feelings.
Kamloops bends to apathy constantly, from everything from social issues benefiting the needy, to the performing arts center that blew away in the wind, to replacing valuable historic plaques stolen for meth money, to even extending olive branches of kindness to our most marginalized peoples.
The most common thing I hear is that no one wants to do anything in Kamloops, and it’s true. It took years for us to get three people together to do a podcast, and apathy took that number down to two in only a couple short years.
Getting people out to shows, or events is like pulling teeth.
Unless it’s hockey, or cowboy honky tonk shit, or the new Lululemon selling $75 leggings, no one could be bothered, and it’s sad.

Kamloops has a burgeoning community of artists, we have cultural dance groups, we have heavy metal bands, we have a whole cafe built on The Art We Are, and it is filled with hours of handicrafts. We have farmer’s markets and craft breweries. We have these unique and beautiful landmarks, but we have to fight so hard for them. Downtown Kamloops is in a strangehold of conservative Catholics who don’t give a shit about anyone else beyond their own business and beliefs. I watched friends struggle to set up a coffee joint and eventually fold their business plans due to the bureaucracy that comes from attempting to work with baby boomers who urge you to simply pull yourself up by the boot straps.
The poison extends into our news, where CFJC pays an asshole former mayor to write ranting long winded diatribes about all of his hates, negative articles dripping with sarcasm and rage at millenials and “junkies” and minorities, and that really frames the whole of Kamloops for me. It’s so hard to fight through the apathy that has been spoon fed to you from birth. People leave the city for the mecca of Vancouver and turn tail within a few months, and end up back in town, dejected and bored, just like the rest of us.

How many times have I heard people say that “nothing happens in this town”, and then when something does, the self fufilling prophecy, “well nobody will go so I won’t either”?

And I get it – how many times have I forced myself to events I don’t want to go, just to be there and be counted?  Too many.  But I still do it.  I guess because I believe in this stupid little town.  Maybe Vancouver scares me.  A place that is beautiful, but too crowded, a place where after a weekend, I can barely think straight.

Kamloops is home.  The arts in Kamloops is home.  The Paramount theatre is home.

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I don’t have a solution for this. I wish I did.
Even with the announcement from Kelson Group that the theatre will keep running as is once the purchase is complete, I remain hesitant. Will we be able to overcome apathy and show Kamloops that our arts community is alive and fucking well and we need our chance to shine?
How many thousands attended the film festival this year?
200 people turned out to each of our showings of Mandy, Border, Jack, and Suspiria. How many more could we get if someone gave us the reins.

What if we turned the Paramount into the Rio like in Vancouver – a cultural icon, a landmark, a burlesque house, a show, a venue, a party, a place to see your blockbusters, your indie darlings, your old school genre features, and more?

A girl can dream. A girl can dream.
But a girl is no one. And I need you, Kamloops. I need you real bad.
I just hope you need me too because I refuse to give in to apathy, and I will keep hosting stupid events, and I will keep attending your events.

Tell me about them.  And if you want to make art with me, let’s make art and get weird.

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