630 S. Broadway / Los Angeles
Palace Theatre in 1911 -
The Palace Theatre opened in June 26, 1911 as the Orpheum with Sophie Tucker as the opening night star. Other great performers who performed here on the 2-a-day vaudeville bill have included Al Jolson, Sarah Bernhardt, the Marx Brothers, W.C Fields and Will Rogers.
The theater was built in 1911 with beautiful box seating (see below) along the sides of the auditorium. When the primary entertainment shifted to film, the box seats were removed because they had ridiculously bad sightlines for movie viewing. They were replaced with two beautiful murals done by Anthony Heinsbergen, a famous Los Angeles muralist:
Original interior of Palace Theatre - (L) box seats were removed in 1930 and replaced with murals
Originally the theater could house 2,200 people on the orchestra and two balconies, the mezzanine and the gallery. There
is a question whether the gallery was used as a minority ("colored") balcony or if it was a "third class" balcony for the poor with cheaper, benched seating, but whatever its purpose the gallery had a separate entrance from the alley and separate restrooms. (The gallery was closed in the forties when the theatre was renovated to be movie theatre, and today the theater uses only 1050 seats in the orchestra and mezzanine.) Another interesting feature is the Women’s Lounge, with glass doors that overlook the theatre entrance. In 1911 women were not permitted by custom to go to the theater unescorted or travel with a young man without a chaperone. This room protects against these social pitfalls; the windows looking into the foyer were designed to help women watch for their dates.
- looking up into the balconies and gallery -
This was the 3rd home for Orpheum Circuit vaudeville in downtown Los Angeles, preceded by the Grand Opera House on Main Street and at the Los Angeles Theatre on Spring Street, which was later known as the Lyceum. Today it is the oldest remaining Orpheum theater in the United States.
- (L) Palace facade in 1926... (Center) a remaining exterior sculpture... (R) and the facade in 2007 (photo by Bill Counter)
There was one problem with the Palace; the lobby was just too small. In 1926, a new "Orpheum" theatre was built two blocks down South Broadway and the 1911 theatre was renamed the Palace. It became a silent movie theater and later a first run movie house for sound features.
- (L) Sign at night, 1940s... (R) and in 1955 -
After a long history as a first run movie theatre, the history of the theatre declined with the decline of Broadway and its once flourishing entertainment district. The theatre continued with second run films and Spanish language films until it closed in the mid nineties.
Recently the Palace has undergone a restoration and will soon be reopening as a live performance venue.
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation
For more information on LA theatres see Bill Counter's Excellent Website!