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Anderson's Paramount Theatre seeks donations

June 1, 2014

In an effort to finish a project Bill Hardacre dedicated his life to, the Paramount Theatre Centre & Ballroom in Anderson is asking for donations to completely eliminate the debt the 85-year-old building still owes.

Gayle Burris, executive director of the theater, said $800,000 is still owed on the landmark building's mortgage. Officials are hoping to be able to raise that money to honor Hardacre, who died May 11 at the age of 82.

"We think this would be a great way for the community to thank Bill for everything he did for this theater," Burris told The Herald Bulletin. "Twenty-five years ago, this was going to be a parking lot and he stopped that."

When Hardacre learned the building was scheduled for demolition, he got a group of people together to buy the building from the county council and get it back up to code. Burris said the group raised $3.7 million to restore the theater to its former glory.

Hardacre's widow, Ann, said she and Bill grew up going to the Paramount, which was built in 1929.

"I danced there from the time I was about four," Ann said. "And Bill would go watch movies there when he was young."

Ann said her late husband did whatever he could to try and better the community, and saving the Paramount was one of the ways he gave back.

"He wanted to keep it as a meeting place for the community," she said. "Whenever we attended an event he would always say, 'It's a good thing this isn't a parking lot right now.'"

With all the original money that was raised going toward restoring the building, the amount owed to the bank has been much more difficult to pay off. Burris said the Paramount board members are making progress. The $800,000 deficit was $1.5 million five years ago. Still, plenty of help is needed.

"We have been able to knock the debt down thanks to a very tight budget," Burris said. "But we need to get it all gone — or at least a big chunk of it."

She said with as much debt as the Paramount has, it can be tough to book guests to come and perform. She said there are plenty of artists that enjoy playing in old theaters, but the board doesn't have thousands of dollars to pay for the acts.

"I don't think some people understand that you have to pay artists when they come play," Burris said. "And it's hard to pay people when you owe that much to the bank."

With a little more financial leeway, Burris said she hopes the Paramount can begin offering more programs for the community to enjoy. More programs would equal more profit, and Burris hopes that will lead to the Paramount being able to thrive in Anderson for many more years.

New generations of Anderson residents being able to enjoy the Paramount was Hardacre's goal when he decided to save it.

Ann said it would be tremendous if enough money was raised to pay off the remaining debt. She said she was amazed by the memorial contributions made after Hardacre's funeral.

"It would be such a wonderful tribute to him if they could pay the debt off," she said.

Hardacre was passionate about the Paramount right up until his death. Burris said he was at the May board meeting and came to every program the theater had despite his advancing age.

"He really walked the walk," she said. "If there was an event, odds are he would be there. He was always thanking the audience for coming, thanking the performers and anyone else who helped make the program possible."

Burris said one of Hardacre's traits that she appreciated the most was his constant optimism. She said he always tried to look on the bright side even when a situation involving the Paramount looked grim.

She is taking an optimistic view on finally paying off the debt as well. Although $800,000 seems like a lot, Burris believes the money can be raised.

"Nearly everyone who grew up in Anderson has some kind of memory in the Paramount," Burris said. "Whether it's prom or graduation or something. We're hoping people will donate to keep those memories alive."

She sees donations as a tip of the hat to the legacy Hardacre left behind as well.

"We want to show him how much he impacted the community," she said. "This is a way for us to say thank you to Bill."

When people do send donations, Burris said she hopes they also send a note about why they are sending a donation. If she gets enough, she wants to put them in a book as a further testament to Hardacre's legacy.

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