By Darla Shelden
The historic Paramount Pictures theater, the last of the studio screening rooms remaining on Oklahoma City’s historic Film Row, has recently been acquired by three female entrepreneurs who are reviving the venue. The Paramount OKC – Reel Art, Wine & Coffee, at 701 N. Sheridan, will have its grand opening weekend on Friday and Saturday, August 10 and 11.
On Friday, from 6 to 10 p.m., the open house will feature entertainment by Miss Brown To You, free hors d’oeuvres while they last and a cash bar. On the following Saturday evening, Paramount OKC will premier its first feature film at 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. The film’s title is being kept under wraps.
“We’ll show one movie on Fridays, two on Saturdays and on Monday nights we’ll do ‘Remake Mondays’,” said Melodie Garneau, Paramount OKC managing partner. “We’ll screen a famous movie that’s been remade and give a brief history of the original. We also want to have live events such as poetry readings.”
The three Paramount partners are Oklahoma City residents Melodie Garneau, Helen Goulden and Becky Kephart. Goulden and Kephart have full time jobs outside the Paramount. Garneau, who recently found herself working freelance as a software development project manager, decided in May to do something she had long dreamt about.
“Being freelance is scary, so I thought if I’m going to earn a living doing something that I’m scared about, then I might as well do something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Garneau. “Becky, who’s been to film school, heard a story on NPR about a couple that ran a restaurant where they showed movies. We all thought this was a great idea and started looking for a place to open a coffee shop.”
They began their search on Oklahoma City’s historic Film Row. After looking at a location that didn’t really fit the bill, they met with Oklahoma City property owner Ron Smith to see what was once Paramount Pictures. He showed them a space that they all agreed would be perfect for their coffee shop, and he then suggested they might also be interested in the property next door.
“When we walked in we thought oh no way, it’s a theater!” said Garneau. “The seats are still here, and it’s got a stage! When he showed us the projection room I thought Becky was going to cry because it looked probably just like it did when Paramount was here in the 1920s.”
The trio did research on licensing movies, acquiring equipment and whatever else they would need to create their dream. Garneau now spends her days at the Paramount getting everything ready for the August premiere.
“Our goal is to rent the space out during the day for businesses presentations, birthday parties or other private events. And once a month on Saturday afternoon we will do matinees for kids,” said Garneau.
Nearly 50 vintage theater seats are available with space in the front of the venue for less formal seating arrangements. Rental rates will start at $100 hour, and for nonprofits, independent filmmakers or film students, the rate will be half price. The theater holds 75 guests.
“In addition to displaying movie posters, we want to contact local artists and ask them to create artwork related to the film industry. It will be like an art showing for them, where people can see some of their work.”
Three years ago, Garneau and two of her colleagues adopted Taft Middle School and started a program called Taft Art & More, where kids can come early before class for art and tutoring.
“During the school year we have 25 to 30 kids each morning,” said Garneau. “In October we do an auction of their art. Money raised from that sale funds the program for the rest of the year. Last year the auction was at IAO Gallery. This year it will be here.”
The Paramount OKC Wine & Coffee venue will also serve beer and offer a light breakfast, lunch and evening menu that features pies from Pie Junkie.
“They have created a signature pie for us called the Paramount that’s a special espresso infused smores pie, made from scratch, with an espresso ganache filling,” said Garneau. “We take a blowtorch and crisp the marshmallow to your taste. It’s delicious!”
Breakfast items include quesadillas, muffins and danishes. Lunch will feature soup and sandwiches along with Paramount’s signature dessert shooters.
“We’ll serve locally roasted free trade organic coffee and our after 4 p.m. menu will include Becky’s secret meatball recipe, fruit and cheese platters, and our homemade artisan bread and butter baskets, served with blue cheese spread, hummus and honey butter.”
During the NBA finals Garneau received a call from ESPN wanting to hold a private screening but she said, “It was too soon, I wasn’t even in the door, but we’ll be ready next year.”
For theater reservations, hours, or menu and membership information call 405-314-0945 or visit www.theparamountokc.com .