By Katy Savage
Eric Mallette caught the “theater bug” when he was 19 and working as a college intern at the Paramount Theatre.
“I remember the magic I felt walking through the doors,” Mallette said.
It’s where he realized the power theater has.
“I remember thinking how exciting it was to be part of something greater,” he said. “It really stuck with me all these years that we gather 800 people in a room to watch something and we each leave having experienced the same thing but absorb it differently.”
Shortly after his internship in 2004, Mallette, who grew up in Brandon, dropped out of Castleton State College to take a full-time job at the Paramount’s box office.
Mallette then became the assistant box office manager, then box office manager, then project manager, then assistant director until he became the programming director in 2008.
Next month, Mallette, 34, will lead the organization as interim executive director.
The Paramount announced June 10 that Bruce Bouchard, who has been executive director for 12 years, will move to a newly-created fundraising position in the organization July 1.
Mallette will be responsible for budget development and daily operations. He’ll oversee the staff while also maintaining the responsibilities of the program director for the 838-seat theatre.
“I’m so humbled to steer the ship at a place where I caught the bug,” Mallette said.
The theatre has been closed since April due to the pandemic. Bouchard, 71, said Covid-19 changed his thoughts and priorities about his life.
“It was time for new blood, young blood, new ideas,” Bouchard said. “I have always thought of myself as an artist who became an administrator. Eric is a superb administrator who is becoming an artist… the Paramount and our community as a whole is so lucky to have Eric step into this role.”
Bouchard got his first professional acting role at 21 years old. He continued acting in New York for 10 years, completing about 2,000 productions before he became interested in directing and administration. He most recently worked at a developmental theatre in Saratoga, New York.
When Bouchard arrived, the Paramount was in debt. The budget has grown from about $500,000 to $1.8 million and programming has quadrupled under Mallette and Bouchard’s leadership. They’ve also secured a new $100,000 sound system.
At the same time Covid-19 hit, Bouchard passed his 50-year milestone in the business.
“It’s been a long, interesting career,” he said.
Bouchard, who now lives two blocks from the Paramount, will continue working about 30 hours fundraising for the organization.
“We’re survival mode fundraising right now,” he said. “I just couldn’t leave the theatre now like this.”
He said the question for the Paramount and other theaters about reopening depends not just on state regulations, but also on how safe people feel to sit in a crowded room. Bouchard said Mallette was the ideal person to take over during the pandemic.
“Eric is brilliant and has done such a good job of programming the theatre,” Bouchard said. “We started working together 12 years ago — Eric was 22 years old — he had the gift of gab and was great at creating strong relationships with all the right folks.”
Mallette has also brought well-known acts to the area and helped launch a local theatre group, which had its first production last fall.
In the midst of the pandemic, Mallette pivoted the business model to bring a drive-in movie theatre to the Vermont State Fairgrounds.
Mallette said the Paramount will likely be one of the last organizations to reopen but he was confident that the community would continue to support the Theatre.
“They take great pride in local treasures like the Paramount,” he said. “We punch above our weight class. I think we are a case study. You don’t see a lot of success stories like the Paramount.”
There have been many changes, but one important thing hasn’t changed for Mallette: He said he still has “the bug.”
“Every night feels like opening night to me,” Mallette said.