Palace Theatre

324 Beale Street,
Memphis, TN 38103

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

Help us make this street view more accurate

Please adjust the view until the theater is clearly visible. more info

PALACE Theatre, Memphis, Tennessee.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The first theatre opened at this address in 1908 and was a storefront nickelodeon called the Pastime Theatre. It was opened by Sam Zerilla and closed in 1917. In 1919, Anselmo Barrasso and the Pacini brothers, Lorenzo and Angelo, opened the Palace Theatre at the same address. The original Pastime Theatre space became the lobby, and a new expanded auditorium was constructed behind the building with a full stage, and the new Palace Theatre became the largest ‘colored’ theatre on it circuit.

It was famed more for stage entertainment than movies (in later years a film after the stage show might play to an empty house). The acts were so popular that the Thursday Night Rambles were scheduled for white patrons only at midnight. A story persists that white people were sometimes permitted to site in the balcony for regular shows. After World War II, Beale Street was beginning to decline and the building was modernized in 1949 to compete with the brand-new Handy Theatre in the Orange Mound neighbourhood.

The Palace Theatre closed in 1962 and became so dilapidated that it fell to urban renewal, even though it had an important history. Today a nightclub occupies that address.

Contributed by Jack Coursey, Vincent Astor

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 21, 2005 at 6:03 am

The Palace Theatre was originally a Vaudeville house catering for a black audience. Listed in Film Daily Yearbook;1931-32 and 1940-1955 as a Negro theatre with a seating capacity given as 1,100.

Apparently in the 1930’s Gonzelle White’s band and Count Basie performed on stage here.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 31, 2008 at 7:15 am

The first photo was taken in 1940. You can also see the New Daisy to the right. The second photo is circa 1960s:
http://tinyurl.com/3apy6u
http://tinyurl.com/3xjg32

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 20, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Here is a 1944 photo from the new Life Magazine collection on Google:
http://tinyurl.com/6jq6hy

seymourcox
seymourcox on July 25, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Here is another LIFE 1946 photo of the Palace, just beyond the New Daisy,
View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 3, 2009 at 12:27 am

The modern facade on the Palace in the 1950s photos was the work of local architect Robert Thomas Martin who designed the renovation of the house that took place in 1949. The third floor of the Palace building was removed as part of the project.

An interesting revelation in the July 9, 1949, Boxoffice item about the renovation was this:

“Midnight rambles were held on Thursday nights for whites at the Beale Street Palace for 21 years. Whites were seated in the balcony and Negro patrons downstairs. They were discontinued in 1941 because of the war, but will be resumed when the remodeling program is completed.”
I don’t know that the midnight rambles for whites ever were brought back after the renovation, as the African-American movie industry that made the films presented at such shows was already on its last legs in 1949.

vastor
vastor on May 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm

The Midnight Rambles were stage shows. It is possible they were revived (have not researched that) but Beale was declining in the early fifties.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on May 27, 2013 at 7:50 am

The Mighty WurliTizer Theater Pipe Organ, Opus 1324, 3/11 (manual/rank, keyboard/sets of pipes), had a curved console and a total of 815 pipes! It also was “hooked up” to a piano, marimba, cathedral chimes, xylophone, glockenspiel, sleigh bells, chrysoglott, bass drum, kettle drum, crash cymbal, cymbal, harp, snare drum, tambourine, castanets, Chinese block, triangle, orchestra bells, siren, auto horn, fire gong, gong, steamboat whistle, horse hoofs, door bell and bird whistle.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 28, 2013 at 9:52 am

Here is an interesting bit of atmosphere from the heyday of the Palace Theatre. Williamson’s Beale Street Frolic Orchestra was the pit band at the Palace in the 1920s. The band made some recordings for Victor records, and two takes of each of four of their original songs, recorded in 1927, can be heard at Red Hot Jazz (requires RealPlayer.)

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater