The Paradise Theater was built upon the foundation of the Grand Opera House in 1929, after the original opera house was destroyed by fire. Designed by the architectural firm Liebenberg and Kaplan, the Paradise was originally conceptualized as the Granada with a Moorish or Spanish theme.
The Paradise is an example of an “atmospheric” theatre, a Hollywood-inspired genre of architecture. Unlike conventional theatres, atmospherics are rich in fantasy decor, designed to divert the audience away from everyday cares and set the stage for the show to come on stage and screen. The architectural design and decorative scheme in an atmospheric theatre were planned to evoke the illusion that patrons were seated outdoors. This effect was achieved by projecting images of stars and moving clouds onto a painted, seamless ceiling, using a brenograph, which is a special type of projection equipment designed expressly for this purpose. The employment of projected images is the key element in an “atmospheric” theatre. The auditorium appeared to have no roof, and patrons seemed to be sitting outside under a starry summer sky. The notion of a projector with clouds and stars was a very clever and innovative idea in the 1930’s, as most other theatres would utilize a pianist or a pit band to entertain the patrons before a film screening or production.
To create the mood, “atmospheric” theatres were modeled after certain romantic themes. Some, like the Paradise took their inspiration from Spanish Mediterranean villages; others borrowed from ancient Egypt. The image created for the Paradise was one of a walled Moorish courtyard. Once seated inside of the auditorium of the theatre, the full effect of the courtyard “atmosphere” is achieved. The sides of the theatre, faced with plaster scored to look like masonry, were painted to resemble stone.
The theater was designed with a traditional proscenium arch separating the shallow vaudeville stage from the seating area. It also included a small orchestra pit intended for use by the musicians who accompanied the movies of that time. Originally designed to seat 915 people, the theater was eventually divided in half so that two movies could be screened simultaneously.
The theater closed in the early 1990’s, under pressure from more modern, multiplex theaters that had sprung up in the region. The period of vacancy at the Paradise Theater did not mean that Faribault was void of artistic enterprises, however. The Faribault Art Center (FAC) which became a nonprofit in 1965, Faribault Area Community Theater (FACT), founded in 1988, and the Paradise Center’s semi professional resident theatrical company, The Merlin Players all became very active players in the regional arts scene.
For over 40 years, the Faribault Art Center (now Paradise Center for the Arts) has been part of the Faribault community. Begun in the 1950’s by a small group of artists, FAC promoted visual arts to local artists and art lovers through classes, exhibitions, and community involvement projects. FACT also had a strong history of making theatrical performances accessible to community participants as well as patrons. There are currently three community theater performances a year held in the Bahl Family Auditorium.
Currently, Faribault Art Center is doing business as Paradise Center for the Arts (PCA). Faribault Area Community Theater dissolved as a nonprofit organization, and is merged into the Paradise. The organizations merged their operations and finances in November of 2006. Paradise Center for the Arts functions under the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation of Faribault Art Center, and retains its nonprofit status: EIN 41-138-1314.
We look forward to the opportunity to share with YOU what Paradise has to offer. Please visit our facility and enjoy our many artistic offerings.