Movies — along with coffee, wine and pie — are being served along downtown's ever-blossoming Film Row.
Co-owners Melodie Garneau, Becky Kephart and Helen Goulden opened The Paramount OKC, the unique-to-Oklahoma coffee shop and screening room, on Aug. 1 — a venture that was inspired by a similar New York City coffee shop Kephart heard about on National Public Radio.
Kephart, a former film student at Watkins College of Art, Design and Film in Nashville, Tenn., was instantly excited about the idea and shared it with Garneau and Goulden.
“We're both big film buffs,” Garneau said. “And what better place to do this than on Film Row.”
In its mid-20th century heyday, the 700 block of W Sheridan Avenue was one of 35 film distribution centers across the country, home to branches of Paramount, RKO, 20th Century Fox and other studios.
Until the past several years, the block was better known as “skid row,” a blighted stretch on the west fringe of downtown. Developer Chip Fudge bought up several of the art deco buildings, launched renovations and worked with the city to start a streetscape. The area is now home to an art gallery, pizzeria and offices.
Garneau said the three first approached Fudge, but the only space he had available was not a good fit for their ambitions to set up a combined coffee shop, wine bar and independent theater.
“We saw a for-lease sign, and it was just what we needed,” Garneau said. “We told the owner, Ron Smith, what we wanted to do, and how we wanted a large room for screenings and special events.”
It was then that Smith told the women the building at 701 W Sheridan Ave., once the outpost for Paramount Pictures, had a 70-seat theater.
“We were amazed there was a theater with a stage, seats and a projection room,” Garneau said. “It was perfect.”
The showing on opening night was the Paramount film “Sunset Boulevard.” Showings have continued each week, with Charlie Chaplin's “The Dictator” and the Oscar-winning “The Artist” set for Friday and Saturday.
Because the theater attaches to a wine bar, the screenings are restricted to those 21 and older. Instead of charging for admission, the operators ask patrons to buy memberships at prices determined by the patrons. Patrons are advised to arrive early if they want to sit on a set of couches and ottomans in the front of the cinema. Seating is limited to 70 people.
Future events will include a presentation by Grey Frederickson, an Oklahoma native and producer of “The Godfather,” “The Outsiders” and “Apocalypse Now.” The presentation will be followed by a screening of one of Frederickson's films.
Gephart would like The Paramount OKC to be a venue at next year's deadCenter Film Festival and a hangout for the city's growing film community.
“We're really hopeful film students in the community will see this as their second home,” Gephart said. “It's where they can come, work on the films, their scripts, and enjoy some coffee and a piece of pie.”
If you go
The Paramount OKC, 701 W Sheridan Ave., is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays. The coffee shop and wine bar serves breakfasts, lunches and light dinners, along with pie from the Pie Junkies. Movies are screened weekly, with memberships sold for prices determined by patrons. For more information, visit www.