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Sept. 22, 2009

After 79 years shining its lights from the corner of Pine St. and 9th Avenue, the 1930s Paramount Theatre sign has weathered and decayed beyond repair and will be replaced. But no worries, taking its place will be an exact replica to be installed over six days starting October 6.

Will we notice the swap?

“The only difference will be that all the lights will be working,” said Amanda Bedell, the theater’s public relations manager. Only about 80 percent of the 1,932 light bulbs are functioning now.

Theatergoers lining up to buy tickets Tuesday afternoon reacted with mixed feelings when I shared the news about the sign. Mary Bates, who’s lived in Seattle all her life, had a puzzled look on her face. “It’s kind of a symbol. I used to come here with my mom all the time. I’d prefer if they were able to repair it. If it’s going to look exactly the same I guess it’s ok, but it makes me a little sad.”

In order to create an exact replica of the original, Kirkland-based company The Sign Factory has conducted extensive on-site research, collecting information regarding every piece of steel, nuts, bolts and screws.

The new sign will be approximately 90% more energy efficient. “If they need it to save money, why not?” said Quinn Smith, also in line to get some tickets.

The theater doesn’t know how much will be salvageable after the sign is taken down in three pieces. If anything can be preserved, they plan to contact appropriate museums and local philanthropists. David Allen, director of operations, thinks they’ll probably be able to keep the letters.

A fun fact: When the sign went up in 1928, it said “Seattle.” It was re-skinned to say “Paramount” in March of 1930.