A Martian Christmas, The Grinch And The Paramount

Salem's Christmas past ties right into its Christmas present.

If you were an adolescent in the 1960's and a teen in the 1970's you know that television and the movie theater played a real role in your daily existence. Other than radio there was no other electronic media out there.

Growing up as local movie theaters were fading, I can only remember two in Salem. There was the Salem Theater and then the decidedly more upscale, at least in appearance, Paramount Theater. Each was located on Essex Street. 

The Federal, Empire and Rialto Theaters were slightly before my time.

Most of the Christmas movies that I remember from childhood were shown on television. To this day my favorite Ebenezer Scrooge remains Alistair Sim in the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol". Other versions have been well done but somehow Alistair Sim still stands out for me as the best.

One December day 1968 my sister Donna and I and left the family apartment on Ward Street to make our way down Lafayette Street to Central Street on the way to Essex Street. Our destination was the Paramount. We were each supplied properly with home popped popcorn in a brown paper bag, a box of Raisenettes purchased earlier in the day from Lussier's Drug Store and fifty cents to purchase tickets and a fountain drink.

We arrived at the Paramount, whose entrance was roughly where Omen is now located, in short order. We acquired our tickets and then walked the long, red carpeted entrance corridor to the refreshment counter. The counter seemed a mile long. We purchased our cherry cokes and knew for sure that we were living large.

The feature that day was a 1964 feature "Santa Claus Conquers The Martians". In this movie the Martian leader kidnaps Santa in order to save the children of his planet from boredom caused by an overly rigid lifestyle. His daughter was played by Pia Zadora who went on achieve some moderate success as both an actor and a singer.

Film critics these days classify the movie as one of the 100 worst ever made. I remember it as an entertaining afternoon distraction from home life that both Donna and I enjoyed.

My favorite of all the television Christmas shows is still "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" from 1966. The Boris Karloff narration and singing, the descent with his dog/reindeer, the Grinch slinking around Whoville like a serpent, Cindy Lou Who and of course the roast beast and who hash all stand out to me today.

I've no use for the Jim Carrey movie version. As a matter of fact I have no use for Jim Carrey at all.

The Paramount and Salem Theaters are long gone. Both victims of the wrecking ball and other factors. My eyes saw the razing of the Paramount, the buildings innards exposed to the elements for all to see. I remember standing at the corner of St. Peter Street and then climbing down the demolition debris to explore the remains of a basement bowling alley with some young friends.

We now have CinemaSalem located a stones throw from where the Paramount stood. It is good that we can still watch movie, in a theater here in Salem. You can even see a Christmas movie there this week.

Have a great Christmas folks.

Edward December 24, 2012 at 09:12 PM
And it appears 'Midnight Cowboy' was the last movie shown there. Didn't know it had a bowling alley in the basement. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/11685
William Legault December 24, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Great link Edward!
Josh Turiel December 24, 2012 at 10:47 PM
The Salem Theater was torn down in the mid-80s, and an apartment building that, at the time, was called the "Essex House" was built there in its place. It's today the 289 Essex condos - I know this because it's where my wife and I lived when we first moved to Salem. Eras end, and eras begin again. The malls helped suck the life out of downtown Salem in the '70s and '80s, and around the last decade the idea of downtowns as a destination have once again caught hold and downtown Salem, in particular, is doing better than it had in decades before. Amazing to see the cycle turn so completely, yet with a totally new roster of businesses anchoring it.
Edward December 25, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Thanks. According to the Wikipedia article on Paramount Pictures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramount_Pictures), Publix Theatres (mentioned on the Cinema Treasures page), was a forerunner name to Paramount. I do remember the Salem Theatre next to Jerry's, if I recall correctly, the marquee outside also had the E.M. Loew name on it.
Chuck January 03, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Hey Bill nice piece. Brought back great memories. I remember the Plaza Theater operating into the early 60's with old horror movies. http://www.boxoffice.com/the_vault/issue_page?issue_id=1950-11-18&page_no=101#page_start We used to go to a soda fountan across the street from the Salem Theater. Can't remember the name.


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