How Paramount Theatre’s summer films series unites six generations of moviegoers

Austin
The Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin will celebrate the return of its annual Summer Classic Films Series Thursday evening, with an inaugural showing of "Casablanca."

The Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin will celebrate the return of its annual Summer Classic Films Series Thursday evening, with an inaugural showing of “Casablanca.” (KXAN Photo/Kelsey Thompson)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Stop and smell the popcorn, Austin: The Paramount Theatre returns for the 46th anniversary of the Summer Classic Films Series Thursday evening.

The annual summer films series celebrates the classic titles movie buffs know and love, with thematic weeks centered around premiere anniversaries, actors, directors and genres. This year’s themes include Hitchcock Week, Heroes of the Cinema, Marlon Brando Week and celebratory screenings for films celebrating their 25th, 50th and 75th anniversaries.

Sticking with tradition, the Paramount will launch the 2021 series with a screening of the Hollywood classic, “Casablanca.”

The Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin will welcome back visitors for its 46th annual Summer Classic Films Series Thursday evening. (KXAN Photo/Kelsey Thompson)

“Our patrons and we are all so excited,” said Jim Ritts, CEO of Paramount Theatre. “For 46 years we have been doing this, beginning on Memorial Day weekend as we do tonight with ‘Casablanca,’ and running all the way through to Labor Day Weekend.”

Not sticking with tradition, however, are some of the added safety protocols that come in the era of COVID-19. Vaccinated guests are permitted to remove their masks while seated, while unvaccinated visitors are asked to wear their face coverings unless eating and drinking. The theater is limited to 50% capacity, and social distancing measures are still in place.

However, this summer’s return marks a slow return to the Paramount’s classic lineup. The 2020 series was postponed from Memorial Day weekend to September and featured a more limited series schedule and enhanced protocols.

Even with the safety measures, Ritts said he is thrilled to see the enthusiasm from Austin moviegoers, who have supported the Paramount “for six generations” and counting.

Not many theaters can say they’ve survived the Spanish Flu, two world wars and a coronavirus pandemic, Ritts said. But such is the testament to the love and loyalty poured into the Paramount by those who have called it their neighborhood cinema for decades.

“I think we are, by nature, social, collective creatures. I think human beings generally like to be with other human beings,” he said, adding: “It simply is a joyful place to be where you gather and experience movies the way you’re supposed to experience them.”

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