History of the Theater

Built in the early 1920’s, the historic Palace Theater was the center of Waterbury, Connecticut’s active cultural scene prior to WWII. Famous New England theater impresario Sylvester Z. Poli opened the venue in 1922, after investing $1 million in its opulent décor. Designed by period architect Thomas Lamb in a Second Renaissance Revival style, the Palace Theater features an eclectic mix of Greek, Roman, Arabic and Federal motifs, grand lobby spaces and ornate dome ceilings, all in a palatial setting fit for a king.

Originally a movie/vaudeville house, the Palace evolved with the times over its 70 years of operation, presenting everything from silent films to Big Band music to contemporary rock concerts. Once considered the premiere performance venue in the Northeast, the Palace lights went dim in 1987. After 18 years of darkness and a $30 million three-year renovation, restoration and expansion, the theater was transformed into a 90,000 square foot arena, housing a state-of-the-art theatrical facility in a historically preserved City landmark. Positioned as Greater Waterbury's Center for the Performing Arts, this exquisite complex now showcases a performance schedule boasting professional Broadway tours, educational programs, family entertainment and much more.

Recorded in the National Register of Historic Places, the Palace's primary purpose is to serve as a centerpiece for the revitalization of the Greater Waterbury area by working closely with local businesses and arts organizations to positively impact economic development for the region. In just tens years of operation, the Palace has hosted well over one million patrons and has been credited with generating a new sense of pride in downtown Waterbury, expanding the arts and cultural scene, and positively impacting area businesses, specifically those in the hospitality sector.

With a mission focused on serving as an artistic, cultural, educational and economic catalyst for the community, the Palace Theater has once again reclaimed its position as the premiere arts destination for the people of Greater Waterbury and beyond.

CLICK HERE to visit our history website to view photo of past performers and get a more extensive look at the Palace Theater's unique history.

CLICK HERE to explore 90 years of onstage history and backstage mystique by attending one of our monthly guided theater tours scheduled on select dates throughout the season.




BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — An undisclosed developer will renovate and reopen the historic Majestic Theater, create a 200-room hotel at the former Poli Theater and build two high-rise apartment complexes across the street — to the tune of more than $100 million, Mayor Joe Ganim announced Monday.

The plan, which is likely to take five years to complete, will mean new life for the historic buildings and a big dose of nostalgia for generations who remember taking in a show downtown before the palatial structures were shuttered in 1972.

“The nostalgia is there,” Ganim said, when asked if the idea is viable in 21st-century Bridgeport. “There is a certain grandeur that would attract people — maybe more than the show itself.”

City officials toured the boarded-up buildings Monday, using cell phone flashlights to see their way through the dusty, darkened space. Hints of the theaters’ earlier beauty still abound — from chandeliers to the former organ’s pipes to the grand marble staircase railings to the mezzanine.

When they opened in November 1922, the sumptuous Majestic and Poli, also called the Palace, played host to crooner Eddie Cantor in the musical revue “Make It Snappy,” according to the Bridgeport Public Library.

By the 1930s, both theaters showed films, often around the clock so workers could see movies after their factory shifts.

City officials declined to name the new developer, which has a track record of rehabbing historic theaters, Ganim said. While the firm was chosen Friday, full details of the plans are not complete, said Tom Gill, director of the Office of Planning & Economic Development.

Gill said the overall plan calls for a 130,000-square-foot hotel at the former Poli, which will likely retain its historic entrance.

The Majestic will be renovated into a 2,200-seat theater, which would like offer both films and live shows, Ganim said.

The apartment buildings on city-owned land across the street will offer views of both the Pequonnock River and the restored theaters, Gill said.

City leaders and developers have debated the theaters’ future for years, some supporting demolition.

Ganim said he believes the $250,000 the city put into roof repairs during his first administration in the 1990s has kept them viable.

“Without that, this conversation wouldn’t be possible,” he said.


New Haven’s Palace Theater venue to reopen as a music hall


NEW HAVEN >> Get ready for more live music in New Haven.

The long-closed Palace and Roger Sherman Theater across from the Shubert Theater is set to reopen this spring as the College Street Music Hall.

The programing is expected to cover a wide range of music, including indie rock, classic rock, adult contemporary, alternative modern rock, country and neo soul, as well as comedy shows, according to the city.

 “This is great news for the city. College Street Music Hall will spark economic vitality by creating an incentive for people to spend time and money in the city and for people of New Haven it means tens and perhaps hundreds of entry and more skilled jobs at the theater and in downtown. Most importantly, New Haven will be, once more, a ‘must stop’ for touring musicians. This is an exciting development,” Mayor Toni Harp said in a statement.

Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson said the mayor wanted to get the long shuttered space back in use and asked Nemerson to explore the possibility of doing that.

 “It was on top of my list,” the development administrator said of the importance of reinvigorating the theater that sits in the heart of the city’s arts district.

The details of the arrangements will be discussed further in a press conference Wednesday, but Keith Mahler, president of Premier Concerts, is providing financial and managerial support to the board of directors of the New Haven Center for the Performing Arts, which is getting the project off the ground.

Nemerson said he walks every day with his friend, attorney Steven Mednick, who also has his own band, Hard Road, and talks about connections Mednick might have in the music business. He said it was Mednick, a native of Waterbury, who brought Mahler to the table.

The revival has been in negotiations for the past seven months.

“This is huge,” Nemerson said.

Mahler formed Premier Concerts in 2004 and promotes events at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport and at the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, according to the city.

“We are extremely pleased that Premier Concerts can be part of the team that is revitalizing the former Palace Theatre and are looking forward to not only the venue’s rebirth but the return of New Haven to its place on the national touring scene,” Mahler said in a statement.

He said Premier Concerts already has received inquiries about bookings in New Haven.

Work on upgrading the Palace has already begun, with building permits issued this month, Nemerson said, with an April opening anticipated.

The theater holds 2,000 people and will hold a variety of theater configurations, from seated shows to cabaret table-style arrangements, Nemerson said. It originally featured continental seating, but the director said aisles will be part of the renovated space.

The president of the New Haven Center for the Performing Arts is Elissa O. Getto, who formerly was executive director of the Stamford Center for the Arts/Palace Theatre/Rich Forum, which she helped to rebuild.

She served as president and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and was executive director and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida, as well as general manager of Theatre Projects Consultants in Norwalk, according to a biography issued by the city.

“I have been involved in the rebirth of many great facilities in the state and the country but I honestly believe the growth potential and natural market impact of the Music Hall in New Haven is as strong as any location I have worked with,” Getto said in a statement.

The theater was built as the Roger Sherman in 1926 on what originally housed the Rialto movie theater; the Rialto was destroyed by fire in 1921.

As the Roger Sherman movie theater, it featured the premier of “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.” The stars of that film, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, attended the premier. Other actors at the premier included Joanne Woodward and Barbra Strei­sand, according to the city.

It became the Palace Theatre in 1984 and functioned as such until 2002. It has been owned since then by the New Haven Center for the Performing Arts, a 501(c)(3) organization.

As the Palace, it hosted such artists as B.B. King, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blues Traveler, Primus, Phish, The Spin Doctors, Lyle Lovett, Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, Lou Reed, The Black Crowes, Meat Loaf, George Clinton & The P-Funk All-Stars, Tori Amos, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, They Might Be Giants, Dave Matthews Band, Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows, Run-DMC, Ani DiFranco, Widespread Panic, Fiona Apple, Bob Weir’s Ratdog, The Monkees, Robin Williams, Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync, Melissa Etheridge, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones and others, according to the city.



Stamford Center for the Arts (SCA), a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) cultural arts organization, is the region’s premier center for the performing arts. SCA owns two facilities: the renovated and restored historic Palace Theatre (61 Atlantic Street) and the state-of-the-art Rich Forum (307 Atlantic Street), other in downtown Stamford, Connecticut.

The Palace Theatre, a 1,580-seat Thomas Lamb-designed vaudeville house, was acclaimed as “Connecticut’s Most Magnificent” when it opened in 1927. It was restored and re-opened in 1983 for live theatre, opera, dance, comedy and concerts, plus art exhibitions in the Sackler Gallery. A multiphase Palace Improvement Project provided The Palace Theatre with a Broadway-sized stage, new dressing rooms, wardrobe and costume maintenance facilities, as well as other technical-support facilities.

The Rich Forum, which opened in 1992, includes a 757-seat theatre, the Leonhardt Studio, the glass-enclosed main lobby and reception area, which also serves as an alternative performance/display space, and the box office. The Rich Forum is currently leased by NBCUniversal as a television-production studio. Renovations to the space included extensive state-of-the-art television studios created to accommodate multiple television productions with live audiences and extensive office and technical support space.

In addition to a full season of cultural and entertainment events, The Palace Theatre is also home to the Ballet School of Stamford, Connecticut Ballet, Lumina String Quartetʼs Chamber Music Institute, Namaskaar Foundation, Stamford Symphony, and Stamford Young Artists Philharmonic.


While there are unique perks to living in either Minneapolis or St. Paul, the former has an undeniable edge when it comes to downtown music landmarks: First Avenue will forever be blessed with Prince’s golden star on its side. But the capital city is about to add a prestige music venue of its own. 

Despite the looming threat of a blizzard that was forecast for downtown St. Paul last Friday, hundreds braved the weather for a sneak peak at the newly renovated Palace Theatre. The project grants new life to the historic theater that last opened its doors for regular use in 1977 (with a brief period hosting A Prairie Home Companion in 1984). The Palace brings exciting new possibilities for concerts in the Twin Cities, and it should boost St. Paul’s viability for music-loving night owls.

Here are six takeaways from Friday's public unveiling; check out more photos of the Palace Theatre here.

1. This is the next chapter in the Palace Theatre's storied history

At the time of its opening in 1916, the New Palace Theatre could seat 3,000 and was built on the site of the then-recently burned-down library. The name was briefly changed to the Palace-Orpheum Theatre in 1922 after becoming part of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit, but the space was soon re-branded as the Orpheum Theatre (and later the RKO Orpheum) as it transitioned into life as a movie theater.

2. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's ceremonial key-twist was a long time coming

“I was on the City Council starting in 1998, and kept on wondering how we were going to bring this theater back online -- and just two decades later we are here,” Coleman joked to a hot chocolate-toting crowd at the Palace’s entrance on Friday.

The completion of the renovation will cap off the “Year of Music in the City of Saint Paul," a title bestowed by the mayor to celebrate the city’s artistic soul. “This is going to be the premier venue of this size in the country,” he added before ceremonially unlocking the theater’s doors to the public.

3. The city of St. Paul preserved the venue's ancient charms

The building's two-year, $15.6 million renovation is almost complete. According to the city, which purchased the Palace in 2014, the only work remaining is “adding acoustic treatments and minor aesthetics work” before the keys are handed over to operating partners First Avenue and Jam Productions.

Without action taken by the city, the Palace would likely have been condemned because of deterioration. The theater maintains its historic charms -- including 100-year-old painted detailing -- but it's modernized with colorful LED lights, a brand-new sound system, and accessible bathrooms and elevators.

4. The space feels massive

Total capacity is 2,800, nearly twice as many as First Ave and about a couple hundred more than the Northrop and the Orpheum theaters in Minneapolis; St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theater holds around 1,000. The Palace has intriguing possibilities for utilizing its layout, which includes a vast general-admission ground floor with a huge bar in back (the tiered seated levels each have bars, too).

It’s easy to imagine the kinds of big-named indie bands -- Arcade Fire, St. Vincent, Vampire Weekend, etc. -- that could be lured to the Palace. The venue is expected to draw more than 100,000 people annually to downtown, according to estimates by the city. 

5. Music vibes nicely with the historic setting

A solo performance from folksy Minneapolis musician Jeremy Messersmith enchanted the theater during Friday's open house. Messersmith's haunting vocals juxtaposed nicely with the ghostly presence of the Palace’s past that permeated the area.

6. Regina Spektor is the first act on the Palace's calendar, but that could change

Although concerts are expected to be announced that may precede it, a March 26 show from the singer-songwriter and pianist is the first one booked for the Palace. Spektor will be touring in support of her latest album, September's Remember Us to Life.


CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The completion of $16 million in signage and streetscape improvements at Playhouse Square, plus the May 2 ceremonial lighting of a giant outdoor chandelier, signal the latest stage in the nationally admired revival of the city's theater district. 

The late Ray Shepardson, who died on April 14 at age 70, changed the course of Cleveland history and helped launch a local historic preservation movement in 1970 when he spearheaded the preservation of Playhouse Square's then-abandoned movie palaces and vaudeville houses.

With its 11 stages, and more than 10,000 seats, Playhouse Square now ranks as the second-largest unified arts complex in the United States, after Lincoln Center in New York.

Over the decades, Playhouse Square’s success helped anchor the revitalization of the rest of downtown Cleveland.

Without the theater complex, “we’d have some wonderful parking lots, and we’d have a hole in the eastern part of downtown Cleveland,” said Art Falco, PlayhouseSquare’s president and CEO since 1991.

After leading the revitalization in Cleveland, Shepardson worked on more than 30 similar projects around the United States, spreading a theater revival movement nationwide.

The architecture firm known as Westlake Reed Leskosky, whose former partner, Peter van Dijk, authored an influential master plan for the district in 1976, gained expertise in theater design that it later exported to the rest of the country. As of 2012, the firm had designed renovations of 88 historic theaters across the United States and 44 new theaters.


The district's PlayhouseSquare Foundation is now raising money in the quiet phase of a new capital campaign to renovate mechanical and electrical systems, restrooms and other amenities in its historic theaters in a fresh effort to keep them spiffy and comfortable.

Here’s an admittedly brief sketch of Playhouse Square’s amazing resurrection, based on numerous sources including the district's official history:


- The Palace Theatre closes on July 20, 1969. Of the five remaining theaters at Playhouse Square, the Hanna is the only one that stays open for road shows.

- Shepardson, a Cleveland Board of Education employee, walks into the darkened State Theatre on Feb. 5, 1970, seeking a place for a teachers meeting and discovers its James Daugherty “Spirit of Cinema America” murals. He quits his job and helps form the Playhouse Square Association to save the theaters.

- On Nov. 21, 1971, the association presents its first production in the Allen Theatre, a concert of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. More than a dozen events soon follow.

- The Plain Dealer reports on May 25, 1972, that the Loew’s Ohio and State theaters are to be razed for parking.

Without the theater complex . . . we'd have some wonderful parking lots and we'd have a hole in the eastern part of downtown Cleveland. -- Art Falco

- Cleveland lawyer Oliver “Pudge” Henkel soon persuades city officials to deny temporarily a permit for a curb cut on Euclid Avenue for the parking lot, buying time to save the theaters.

- The Junior League of Cleveland, led by its then-president, Elaine “Lainie” Hadden, raises $25,000 in seed money to help save the theaters.

- Shepardson recruits director Joseph Garry to bring “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” from Cleveland State University to a cabaret theater in the lobby of the State Theatre. Expected to run three weeks from its opening on April 18, 1973, it runs two-and-a-half years.

- 1976: The Playhouse Square Operating Co. merges with the Playhouse Square Foundation; architect van Dijk authors an influential plan showing how the lobbies of Playhouse Square’s major theaters could all be joined, creating a unified arts complex.

- In December 1977, Cuyahoga County buys the Loew’s Building. The Playhouse Square Foundation secures long-term leases on the State, Ohio and Palace theaters, bringing all three under one management for the first time.

- October 1978: Playhouse Square’s theaters are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

- July 9, 1982: The Ohio Theatre reopens.

- June 9, 1984: The State Theatre reopens after a renovation that adds a new stage house.

- April 30, 1988: The Palace Theatre reopens after a renovation.

- In 1999, PlayhouseSquare opens a real estate services division and amasses a portfolio of buildings in the district that functions as a working endowment that serves the organization’s cultural and economic development missions. The foundation’s holdings today include 1.3 million square feet in the theater district, and a million square feet elsewhere across the region.

- June 2006: Ideastream moves into the renovated historic office building at 1375 Euclid Ave. and launches its Westfield Theatre.

- November 2008: The renovated Hanna Theatre reopens.

- August 2012: PlayhouseSquare Foundation opens the renovated Allen Theatre, along with the Second Stage and the Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre.

- May 2, 2014: PlayhouseSquare schedules the ceremonial lighting of its outdoor chandelier at Euclid Avenue and East 14th Street.



The Louisville Palace (also known as the Palace Theatre) is a theater, in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, located in the city's theater district, on the east side of Fourth Street, between Broadway and Chestnut Street. It has a seating capacity of 2,700 people and is owned by Live Nation. The historic landmark opened on September 1, 1928 and was designed by architect John Eberson.[2] It was originally known as the Loew's and United Artists State theatre.

Elegant and ornate, The Palace exhibits a Spanish Baroque motif with arcades, balconies and turrets. Cobalt blue, bursts of red and gold indirectly light all of the niches, coves and entrances. Above is a curved, vaulted ceiling with 139 sculptures of the faces of historical figures. The theater room inside The Palace is heavily ornamented and displays an imitation nighttime sky on the ceiling.

The theater is two stories with a floor and a balcony. Both floors contain bars that run the width of the building behind the theater, separated by a grand lobby of intricate art and architecture.

Although the exterior had fallen behind the spectacular interior, the Palace was re-dedicated in 1994 and is now a premiere venue.[2]


Standing Ovation: Louisville Palace

Before high-rises, Fourth Street Live!, and the KFC YUM! Center carved Louisville, Kentucky’s signature skyline, and fast-paced interstates zipped through the center, the city’s attention to the arts were a sign of the future urban sophistication for the home of the Kentucky Derby. What is now known as the Louisville Palace is undeniably an anchor, icon, and tourist attraction for Downtown Louisville. “The Palace” has stood the test of time—a lifetime of time— on 4th Street. The theater has shown the importance of uniqueness for not only the arts, but also for a city’s character by being resilient.

Built in 1928, on 625 S. 4th Street to be precise, the Louisville Palace was not always named as such. The theater was originally called Loew’s Theater on its September 1, 10:15 a.m. Grand Opening. The venue operated as a double-decker, silent film house and served as the local film outlet for Columbia and Metro-Goldwin-Mayer.

The comedy The Old Gray Horse and featured movie Excess Baggage (with sound) welcomed record crowds for Grand Opening. Governor Fleming D. Sampson and Mayor William B. Harrison were in attendance, as well as Jan Garber and his band featuring Haden Read on the Wurlitzer. Louisville residents had the pleasure of walking off of 4th Street into a 276-bulb Marquee and step up to a ticket booth (now called the Kiosk) made of marble and cast iron.

Loew’s Theater’s design is unique coast to coast, but especially to Louisville. Architect John Eberson designed the theater as part of a series of atmospheric theaters, with 100 movie palaces in dozens of states and even Caracas, Venezuela, Mexico City, and Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne, Australia. His style deeply reflected Spanish Baroque 17th to 18th century with an emphasis on the experience of being outside. For several years, “clouds” were projected onto Loew’s Theater’s ceiling by machines called Brenographs. The “stars” in the ceiling are small lights arranged from a constellation chart, likely to such be of an autumn sky. Reproductions of Renaissance originals and locally made statues of Michelangelo’s David further give the main theater space the feel of a Spanish garden at night. There are six of the seven original statues remaining. A statue was stolen December 2, 1962. The thief was never caught.

The Faces Lobby boasts 139 faces on the ceiling in no apparent order. There are twelve repeating faces of each Apollo, Bach, Beethoven, Dante, Handle, Listz, Moliere, Mozart, Schubert, Shakespeare, Socrates, and Wagner with two other faces that appear only once, one of which is Eberson himself. The chandeliers are not the originals from the 1930’s, but rather restored. The center one weighs about 300 lbs.

Loew’s Theater’s seating capacity was originally 3,300, but such changed along with the name of the theater itself: Loew’s Theater (1928), Loew’s United Artist Theater (1948), United Artist Theater (mid-1950’s), United Artists/Penthouse Theater (1963), and finally the Louisville Palace (1978). Shortly after the theater took on the name Louisvillians know it as today, it experienced commercial turbulence and closed. John Seigel purchased and renovated the building in 1978 and invested 4.4 million dollars towards the renovations. Louisville Palace opened again in 1981 and was open off and on until 1985 when it remained close for 9 years.  The Palace Theatre was placed on the Ten Most Endangered Buildings List for Downtown Louisville in 1992, as it is one of only a dozen of Eberson’s atmospheric designs still standing. The theater reopened in 1994 with the current seating capacity of 2750 to a sellout concert featuring Yanni.

“The Palace” has gone on to host some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. Among them are Aretha Franklin, rapper Kendrick Lamar, Hall & Oates, John Prine, Diana Ross, and comedian/actor Robin Williams. Actor and Louisville-native Victor Mature premiered his Hollywood films at the theater.  

The venue has also added more unique sophistication to Downtown Louisville by embracing other types of events the city enjoys. In July and August on Friday and Saturday nights, the theater shows black and white films. The annual movie showing is called The Classic Summer Movie Theater, admission is five dollars, and each year the films have a different theme.

With the help of a renovated stage, the Louisville Palace hosts ceremonies and weddings, corporate presentations and meetings, on-stage dinners, receptions, fundraisers, and social events. The theater showcases a local, monthly concert series called Faces at The Palace where the Faces Lobby is turned into a mini-concert hall. Faces at The Palace has featured many popular local bands, such as Bodecco, Trophy Wives, The Lady Birds, Kentucky Salsa All Stars, and Field of Kings, among others.

The Louisville Palace has proven itself a necessity to Downtown’s history and Louisville’s culture and urban sophistication. The Live Nation-owned theater has 80-100 shows and concerts a year and 30-40 special or private events. A staff of eight keeps an undeniably valuable piece of Louisville’s history and uniqueness accessible to future generations.


Palace Theatre marks 100th anniversary with $1-million restoration

The newly renovated Los Angeles theatre pays homage to its history by replicating the original color scheme and featuring a live circus-burlesque show in late July.


The  crowds who filed into the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles may have felt like they were stepping a century back in time.

The polished marble near the entrance gleamed, and the gold leaf around the giant pastoral murals that flank the theater's stage glistened. Eleven hundred brand-new red velvet seats awaited theatergoers there to watch Billy Wilder's 1950 classic, "Sunset Boulevard."

Sunday's three sold-out screenings marked the 100th anniversary of the venerable theater at 630 S. Broadway, which first opened its doors on June 26, 1911, as a vaudeville house.

They also showcased the $1-million restoration of the hall whose 40-foot stage has spotlighted entertainers ranging from Fred Astaire to Harry Houdini to Sarah Bernhardt.

The theater was called the Orpheum when it opened; it was renamed the Palace in 1926 when a larger Orpheum theater was built down the street.

"At first, we thought we would just do a little light renovation for its centennial," said Shahram Delijani, whose family owns the Palace and three other historic downtown theaters. "But then we decided to really restore it."

One part of the theater is different from the original, however: its third-level balcony.

When the theater opened, the upper "gallery" level was earmarked for non-white theatergoers. Reportedly designated "Negroes Only," it featured bench seating, had separate restrooms and could be reached only through an outside entrance. Historians have noted that such an arrangement was unusual in a city that, in those days, was more tolerant than other places.

Delijani said he has his own plans for the upper level.

"I'm going to flip it. I'm going to turn it into a VIP area," he said.

Craftsmen in charge of the theater renovation stripped away as many as seven layers of paint from walls and original hardwood wainscoting. They uncovered the hall's original wallpaper, and Delijani was able to replicate it, along with the original color scheme.

"Returning this to its original condition is a heartwarming experience," said Los Angeles artist Teale Hatheway, who restored a fireplace mantel in a hallway leading to a restroom area. "It's nice to be part of something that will be here for many years to come."

The theater was built well to begin with, added artist Debi Cable, who helped restore its marble work. "This building's bones are spectacular," Cable said.

Designed by architect G. Albert Lansburgh, the theater sported a Renaissance revival facade with decorative panels depicting the muses of vaudeville — music, song, dance and drama — created by Spanish sculptor Domingo Mora.

Its interior featured a French look, with garland-draped columns, hand-painted murals on the ceiling and a row of electric lights that outlined the balcony and called attention to its 1911 modernity.

Because it initially had no sound system, Lansburgh paid close attention to the theater's acoustics and seating arrangement; no seat is farther than 80 feet from the stage.

Lansburgh, who is said to have been influenced by a devastating Chicago fire, which killed more than 600 theatergoers in 1903, designed the Palace to have 22 fire escape exits and one of the city's first interior sprinkler systems.

During the theater's early years, vaudeville stars appearing on its stage included Al Jolson, W. C. Fields, the Marx Brothers and Will Rogers. After the live shows were moved to the new Orpheum theater in 1926, the Palace became a silent movie theater that screened newsreels and shorts. In the 1930s, it became a first-run movie house for features with sound.

Those familiar with the Palace describe its renovation as spectacular.

"When you came in here before the restoration, you didn't want to stay," theater expert Ed Kelseysaid. "There was a mildew smell, the seats were worn out, and paint was peeling."

Sunday's 100th anniversary event benefited the Los Angeles Conservancy, a preservation group that, for 25 years, has organized screenings in historic downtown theaters through its Last Remaining Seats program.

Seats were also featured at the theater's original 1911 opening, when they were "auctioned" as a fundraiser that benefited a Los Angeles organization called Associated Charities.

Delijani said regular programming at the Palace will begin July 28 with an appearance by the Lucent Dossier troupe, which will stage a live circus-burlesque show.

He said the Palace, along with the Los Angeles, State and Tower theaters, are his father's gift to the city. Developer Ezat Delijani is an immigrant from Iran who was forced out of his country by the 1970s revolution.

Now 34, Delijani said he grew up "running around and playing" in the ornate Los Angeles Theatre after his father saved it from the wrecking ball in the 1980s.

"My dad was so thankful to this country for taking us in," he said. "These four theaters are my Dad's legacy."



The Palace Theatre is poised to undergo a $65 million transformation that if fully realized would include a new, smaller theater along North Pearl Street, an expansion of the historic original theater's lobby and stagehouse and a state-of-the-art video post-production facility that would be the only of its kind between Manhattan and Montreal.

The vision for the ambitious project, which in cost eclipses the $42 million in renovations and expansion at Proctors in Schenectady that were completed nine years ago, was introduced Wednesday at a news conference at the theater attended by officials from the theater, city, county and other area entities and institutions. They lauded it as yet another major upgrade to the attractions in downtown Albany, alongside $16 million worth of improvements to the atrium of the Times Union Center and the new, $78 million Albany Capital Center convention facility due to open next year.

"This project is undoubtedly the most transformative arts and culture redevelopment venture in Albany in recent memory and will further invigorate the downtown area, spur economic development, create jobs and provide a more sustainable future for the arts in the Capital Region," said Alan Goldberg, chairman of the board of directors for the Palace Performing Arts Center. The nonprofit entity operates the Palace Theatre and would, pending approval by the Albany Common Council, take over ownership of the building from the city; it previously had leased the venue.

No firm fundraising plan is in place for the whole $65 million, Holly Brown, the Palace's executive director, said, adding that capital campaigns and other efforts will be announced as they become finalized. Depending on the pace of fundraising once it starts, she said, the Palace project could be undertaken in phases. The 600-seat theater likely would be first, she said, and it could be open by the end of 2019.

According to estimates supplied by the Palace, the project is expected to have a $125 million one-time economic impact on the community and produce an estimated 225 full-time jobs during a three-year construction period. The downtown Albany area would see the Palace's annual economic impact more than double, to $10 million, after the project's completion. Estimates are for annual attendance of more than 500,000 annually, up from current audiences totaling 175,000 per year.

"I think this is wonderful for Albany," said Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, producing artistic director of nearby Capital Repertory Theatre. "This kind of facility would be a huge draw. We're a capital city that deserves a beautiful space that would attract people from across the region."

Philip Morris, the Proctors CEO who guided its expansion starting in 2003, said he was unaware of the scope of the Palace project.

"That's a lot of money," he said when told of the proposed budget. "I'll be very interested to see what ... they plan to do." Morris said he was not invited to the announcement news conference.

Proctors manages Capital Rep administratively, but the theater company is artistically independent. Although Capital Rep has long needed a new theater itself — its longtime home just down North Pearl Street from the Palace is a former supermarket beneath a concrete parking structure — it would not seem to be part of the immediate plan for the Palace's future. Given a performance and rehearsal schedule that consumes more than 250 nights a year, Capital Rep would not seem be in a position to share the proposed 600-seat theater.

Brown said the theaters have been in discussion about how Capital Rep might be included in the Palace expansion, perhaps in a new standalone building in vacant space at the end of the block north of the new 600-seat theater, but nothing is currently planned.

"That corner lot, for now, would remain as it is," Brown said.

Elements of the project are set to include, according to a news release distributed by the Palace:

Addition of a new 600-seat theater: To be built on North Pearl Street adjacent to the Palace Theatre's north side, the new space would "host small shows for which the main theater is too large and will more than triple the number of performances hosted by the Palace Performing Arts Center. Additional programming will include programs with partner organizations Park Playhouse and Albany Symphony, as well as dance and family-friendly events."

Addition of a new video post-production center: "As the only facility of its kind between New York City, Toronto and Montreal, the post-production center will serve as a professional-quality suite for digital video production companies to mix sound, edit video and create video effects. The space will also include large and small green screen studios with freight elevator access, as well as dedicated dressing rooms and wardrobe support, which will enable shooting video in a variety of techniques as well as audio recording."

Expanded Palace Theatre stagehouse: "The project will allow for the expansion of the original Palace Theatre stage and backstage, which will create a deeper and wider stagehouse capable of hosting an increased variety of shows and events and reducing loading and set-up time, while improving safety and reducing energy costs. New backstage support spaces will feature a much larger loading dock that meets current and future industry standards and modernized dressing rooms. New technology will also be installed throughout the stagehouse."

Expanded Palace Theatre lobby and box office: "The new lobby will provide a larger and more accessible space with increased amenities for patrons. The lobby will feature new concessions, dining and breakout areas, as well as restrooms, and will connect directly to a completely refurbished box office. Additionally, an elevator and new circulation paths will provide accessible wheelchair seating locations near the stage, at the orchestra level and in the mezzanine."

Performing arts education development: "In partnership with Park Playhouse, the Palace Performing Arts Center will design, build and launch a multi-faceted arts program designed to be available, accessible and affordable to broad and diverse populations of the community, including underserved neighborhoods in and around the City of Albany."

The proposed expansion continues a period of significant growth for the Palace. Over the past four years under Brown and Managing Director Owen Smith, the Palace has shown major financial improvements and increased the number of shows by 53 percent.

The Palace has also been a leader in community arts collaboration, evident in shared-services agreements with Park Playhouse, of which Smith is also producing artistic director, and the Albany Symphony; and the recently announced deal under which the Palace will manage and oversee programming at Cohoes Music Hall.


Palace Theatre History

Vaudeville’s Columbus Stage

Thomas Lamb, who would design the Ohio Theatre right after completing the Palace, used France’s Palais de Versailles as his inspiration for the Palace Theatre. The construction of the 2,827-seat theatre was personally supervised by vaudeville mogul Edward Albee, and in 1926, the Palace Theatre first opened its doors to the public as part of the Keith-Albee chain. Since the theatre was primarily a vaudeville house, and the performers had to be heard without amplification, great attention was paid to the hall’s acoustics. In 1929, the Palace became the RKO (Radio Keith Orpheum), which it remained until the 1970s.

Home Away from Home

Since shows were usually in town for multiple days and sometimes weeks, the backstage area was designed with the actors’ traveling needs in mind. The dressing room tower was organized like a small hotel complete with a "front desk," where performers picked up their room keys and mail. There were also kitchen facilities and a designated children's playroom for touring performers. The dressing rooms are all named after cities on the vaudeville touring routes, and still bear those names today.

The animals also were taken into consideration. A porcelain animal bath was installed below the stage. There is also a ramp leading to the stage, as many animals will go up stairs, but not down.

Star Power

During the '30s, '40s, and '50s, the Palace Theatre was the most active live show theatre in Columbus. Over the years, most of the top names in the entertainment business have appeared at the Palace Theatre, including Bing Crosby, Nat "King" Cole, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny, Mae West, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, Burns and Allen, Eddie Cantor, Bill Robinson, Glenn Miller, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Harpo and Chico Marx.

The CAPA Era

In April of 1989, CAPA purchased the Palace Theatre, consolidating its administrative functions with those of the Ohio Theatre. Currently, the Palace is home to performances by Broadway Across America and scores of CAPA-sponsored shows annually, including Kathleen Battle, Natalie Cole, Tommy Tune, Howie Mandel, David Sanborn, Les Ballets Africains, Mandy Patinkin, Raffi, David Copperfield, Manhattan Transfer, Andy Williams, American Indian Dance Theatre, George Benson, Michael Feinstein, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Bonnie Raitt.


Melbourne's Palace Theatre should be saved, despite damage, says heritage expert

Melbourne's Palace Theatre should be saved from demolition because of its cultural significance as a popular entertainment venue, a high-profile historian has told the planning tribunal set to decide the building's fate.

Professor Graeme Davison also questioned a 2014 Heritage Council decision not to include the theatre on Victoria's heritage register. He said the former Metro Nightclub had been incorrectly identified as an original cinema, when it was likely the last-surviving "expressly-built" vaudeville (variety show) theatre in Melbourne.

The Palace Theatre in Bourke Street, Melbourne.  Photo: Paul Jeffers

Jinshan Investment Group wants to replace the upper Bourke Street building with a 12-storey boutique hotel, leaving only an upper section of the facade. But Melbourne City Council and a group of heritage and live-music supporters are battling the developer in a major planning tribunal case set to test whether the rich social history of a building can make it worthy of protection.

A site inspection of the Palace Theatre on Monday revealed that while many of the decorative plaster elements of the 1912 building have been removed, the key elements of the theatre such as its tiered amphitheatre remain

The tiered balconies inside the Palace Theatre.
The tiered balconies inside the Palace Theatre. Photo: Joe Armao

Jinshan Investment Group barred The Age from the attending the site visit and from accessing photos taken during the visit by the public tribunal. But a representative from the National Trust said it was generally pleased that workers had not inflicted more damage to the building, after tonnes of material were stripped from the theatre in 2014.

National Trust acting conservation manager, Anna Foley, said "the amphitheatre is still intact, the stage still stands so my overall impression is it wouldn't take much more than a cosmetic fix to bring the venue back to life as a music venue again".



The start

In June, 1914, Greek immigrant Victor Charas with the help of general contractor Henry Macropol and architect Leon Lempert & Son began construction on the theatre. It was fashioned after its namesake in New York City, to which it is remarkably similar. Construction was completed in under a year. At the time, the theatre was dubbed as "the only first-class theatre in New Hampshire that was fireproof and air-conditioned." (The air-conditioning was provided by fans which blew air over large blocks of ice under the stage.) The Palace Theatre opened on April 9, 1915. Local press billed the evening as the grandest social occasion of the century and the musical comedy Modern Eve played to a full house. With their bright marquee lights, collectively the theatres of the downtown Manchester were referred to as The Great White Way.

Up to 1930 the Palace had touring vaudeville companies regularly on its stage, with famous performers of the day, including Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Harry Houdini, The Marx Brothers, and Red Skelton. Stock companies, such as The Palace players had up to a dozen performances a week.

Manchester historian John Patrick Jordan wrote a book about the vaudeville years of the theater in Check Your Hat. The Vaudeville Years of the Palace Theater. 1915 - 1955.[1]

The decline

Vaudeville began to lose public favor toward the end of the 1920s, as silent pictures and talkies drew crowds to the silver screen. The Palace struggled to stay in business, so it adapted and became primarily a movie house from 1930 until the early-1960s.

By the late 1960s the Palace Theatre was no longer being used as a theatre at all. Instead it was used as classroom space for New Hampshire College. When the school moved to their new campus, the Palace became vacant, and fell into disrepair. Eventually, the seats were removed, the stage equipment was abandoned, and the building was used as a warehouse.


In 1973, two young impresarios - Jon Ogden and Rebecca Gould discovered that Manchester lawyer John McLane had prevailed upon the Norwin S. and Elizabeth N. Bean Foundation to take an option on the Palace in hopes of finding a way to keep it from being sold and torn down. The Bean Foundation funded a feasibility study headed by Ogden and Gould and then agreed to provide $500,000 for the renovation of the theatre. McLane and Gould spearheaded a campaign to provide operating funds for the Palace while Ogden served as the general contractor for the renovation process. On November 2, 1974, the Palace Theatre reopened with its new facade, lighting system, backstage furnishings and new orchestra seating. (Ogden and his staff were still installing the last few seats one half-hour before the building officially opened.) Mayor Sylvio Dupuis, a member of the Board of Directors of the newly formed New Hampshire Performing Arts Center, served as emcee at the opening night ceremonies. Ogden became the Executive Director of the non-profit performing arts organization and Gould became its public relations director.

The theatre building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the "Athens Building" in 1975.[2]

Early in 1980, Ogden and Gould resigned from their positions of leadership. A new Board of Directors under the direction of McLane, cut the budget for the Palace drastically. In December 1980, the sprinkler system was allowed to freeze during a cold snap. When temperatures rose, failed plumbing caused 70,000 gallons of water to pour down the balcony, over the rail, and into the theatre. In 1984, a fire on Hanover Street destroyed much of the block. The firewall of the Palace Theatre's original design saved it and the rest of the buildings on the street beyond it.


The theatre building has two main sections. Facing Hanover Street is a two-story brick-and-stone structure with a pressed-metal facade containing five store fronts, of which the westernmost houses the lobby of the theatre. The auditorium is in a multi-story structure rising behind the first one. The auditorium measures about 72'6" by 59'8". It originally had a seating capacity of 1,100;[3] after its restoration, it has a capacity of 880.[4]