Palace Theatre

1625 Elm Street,
Dallas, TX 75201

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DavidZornig on September 29, 2018 at 9:03 am

Palace in 1970 at 1:32 in the video.

DavidZornig on November 7, 2016 at 6:05 pm

1926 photo added courtesy of the Special Collections, UTA Library.

dallasmovietheaters on December 10, 2014 at 8:16 pm

The original Palace Theater in Dallas was a Nickelodeon just two blocks away on Elm Street. It closed in the early 1900s. The second Palace Theater was also on Elm Street and was renamed the Harlem Theater. But this entry is about the third Palace Theater to appear on Elm Street, that of Southern Enterprises’ Palace Theater, a $1,000,000 showplace designed by Thomas W. Lamb of Chicago and built by C.D. Hill of Dallas.

Many concepts within the design are attributed to S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel who patterned his ideas from the Rialto and Rivoli in New York including a small inner proscenium for the screen and an outer frame for a symphony orchestra. And to make sure people knew the theater cost a million bucks, the theater painted the phrase on top of the theater and placed it in early ads for Palace shows. Movie star Bebe Daniels was on hand March 2, 1921 for the laying of the building’s cornerstone. Its seating capacity of 3,000 would house the entire capacity of the Queen, Hippodrome, and Old Mill Theater combined. Its architecture was said to be of the Adam Design with its Roman Pantheon inspired columns and frieze around its dome. Tennessee gray marble and Gray McMullen marble were liberally utilized along with white and yellow terrazzo flooring as nice touches. Bathed in cream, browns, blues and golds, the theater had an opulent feel. An art gallery was just up the stairways which, themselves were marble with bronze bannisters. Historical periods were carried out in the Pantheon frieze work in the mezzanine while rest rooms were in the marble balcony with marble, fumed oak, and open fireplaces and mantels. Medallion lighting fixtures from the ceiling producing lighting effects. All seats were upholstered with air cushion spring bottoms, nineteen inches wide. And the views were unobstructed by posts as the theater was post-free.

The promised 40-piece Palace Orchestra was reduced to a 30-member group the outset but led by D.W. Griffith staff conductor Don Albert. The $50,000 Hope-Jones pipe organ was huge and featured a quartet of reed, stringed and brass instruments including seven violins, violas, oboes, bassoons, clarinets, cornets, trombones, harp, piano, and kettle drums. Coming just two months after The Majestic’s much-heralded opening, the theater had to deliver the goods. Along with the theater amenities was a staff of 66. Point made Southern Enterprises. As for projection, the projection was from a crow’s nest in the back wall of the balcony, a 136 foot throw from projection window to screen: one of the longest in the South. It would be home to Paramount and Realart films.

The theater opened Jun 11, 1921 with “Sentimental Tommy” with Carl Weisemann showing of the organ. WFAA broadcast from the theater. The fireproof construction turned out to be a saving grace as the neighboring Carreaud Bakery threatened to destroy the Palace in 1922. However, the building held up with $20,000 damage mostly due to water used to extinguish the bakery fire. Another fire in a neighboring business in 1923 caused an evacuation but no damage. A special booth was constructed called the “non-synch” room which was a double turntable for recordings to non-synchronized silent films. It was said to be outside the jurisdiction of the musicians union and thus could be operated with violating the musicians contract.

On March 13, 1926, Publix Theaters left the Melba and took control of Southern Enterprises and the Palace. Its first moves was to lower the orchestra into the pit and bring “New York produced shows” to the Palace. The Palace received a $200,000 makeover beginning in July of 1928 designed by George C. Perkins under Publix for its stage shows. The theater decided to put a lot more into the stage show presences while others were putting their capitol into sound systems. New dressing rooms, a counterweight rigging system for faster set set-up and striking, and glow system of illumination for lighting effects inside the auditorium along with a vastly expanded lobby and much larger outdoor sign – the largest in the South reportedly – among the changes. An improved organ with additional pipes and reeds for fuller presentations was added. The theater would be wired for Movietone sound for its ninth year of operation and Vitaphone, as well. The theater was renamed the Greater Palace, its official name at its grand re-opening that was four months behind schedule on January 11, 1929. In the talking picture era, Norma Shearer’s “Smilin’ Through’ played to 10,500 patrons in a single day which was impressive for 1932.

In 1934, the Interstate Theater Circuit took on the Palace and operated until its closure in 1970. In its thirtieth anniversary, changes which came in time for its 31st birthday included moving rest rooms to the main floor, a new color scheme in the recarpeting of the theater, Eugene Gilboe decorative murals, and wider seating reduced the overall count to 2,300. Between the 30th and 31st birthday, however, projectionist and former president of the projectionist’s union Julius J. Schaeffer – who worked at the Palace since 1921 – died at work. Schaeffer would miss the installation of wider angle screens put in in the form of Cinemascope in June of 1953 for demonstrations along with The Robe – Dallas’ first Cinemascope picture opening Sept. 24th of that year, the stage space was greatly reduced leading to fewer wide scale live events. However, the impressive 54'x22’ Cinemascope screen was the first in Dallas. 30,000 people saw The Robe that first week and it set a record for attendance that stood for years. That film was followed by the successful How to Marry a Millionaire.

The Palace fell victim to the growth of the Central Zone in Dallas which got a lot of the major films. Attendance dwindled and when the Palace’s lease expired in December of 1970, Interstate made no efforts to re-up. The theater closed December 3d and was sold and demolished. The final film, “Flap” was a forgettable choice and the decision to bulldoze the building a regrettable error despite eventually being replaced by the venerable Thanksgiving Tower. Sadly, the Palace was no more.

matermama on December 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm

So great having the above post! Carl Wiesmann was the organist at first but then many others played the magnificient second Wurlitzer Publix #1 a 4 manual/20 rank organ. That console is now with Dick Taylor in California along with some of the relay boards & switchboards. He is building a small museum to house it altho' it is just the console. The rest of that organ (ranks of pipes, blower, generator, etc.) is installed in the Fox Theater in San Jose, CA. Good to know. You can visit that theater’s website for more info. Thanks again for the fine post and detailed history of the Palace Theater.

rivest266 on October 23, 2013 at 3:23 pm

June 12, 1921 ad uploaded here.

matt54 on August 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Here’s a link to a discussion thread on the dallasmetropolis forum in which forum member Dismuke has posted scans of his program from opening night at the Palace, June 11, 1921. The Artwork depicting the theatre’s interior and architectural features will probably prove to be the first time since your last visit to the theatre that you have seen these views.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on September 13, 2010 at 10:42 pm

From the 1930s a postcard view of the Palace Theatre on Theater Row in Dallas.

CKing on August 13, 2010 at 7:40 am

My dad built houses in the 70’s and had a man that would supply him with salvaged brick from time to time. When the Palace was torn down the man called my dad and told him about the brick. My dad purchased the brick and it was used for a house in Rockwall, TX on Lakeshore Dr. I know which house it is and have stopped by and mentioned it to the owners. They are not the original owners but said that the lady that bought the house new said it was from a building in Dallas but they didn’t know if it was true. I told them it was and it was actually from the Palace Theatre.

fturner on July 2, 2010 at 9:43 am

Photographs of the Palace Theater in the Dallas Public Library’s Dallas/Texas History collection:
View link

matt54 on June 9, 2010 at 8:06 am

Saw many films here as well as at the Tower, Capri, and Majestic. My first memory of going to the Palace was when I was 12 in 1966 and I accompanied projectionist Ruben White to work here – I had never seen such a huge or ornate theater and I was absolutely overwhelmed by the visual impact of the auditorium. Then he took me up to the spacious balcony and up that damned little iron ladder to that cramped little fire trap of a projection room! I couldn’t believe that such a lovely theater would have such a small space for the vital machinery that gave the whole place its reason to be! Two huge Norelcos just about took up the whole space! What wonderful memories.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on November 26, 2009 at 6:02 pm

From 1933, a postcard view of the Palace Theatre in Dallas along with the Mirror, Capitol and Old Mill.

cjdavila721 on October 15, 2009 at 9:49 am

My Father, Robert Cobb, studied under Weldon Flanagan and played at the Palace from time to time. He still fondly describes the organ and was devistated when the theater was destroyed.

EnnisCAdkins on September 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Wasn’t the Palace the first Cinemascope theater in Dallas? I saw THE ROBE at the Metropolitan in Houston and I remember seeing a sign in it’s lobby stating that the Palace and Metropolitan were the first two theaters to show Cinemascope in Texas. This was early 1954.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on March 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm

A old movie theater ad from 1949 for the Palace Theater.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on March 9, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Vintage postcard views of the Palace Theater’s sign here and here.

matermama on December 24, 2008 at 10:11 am

A bit more info on the Palace Theatre in Dallas, TX. It was built by the Fred A. Jones & Company of Dallas and Volmer-Burdal Company of New York. Thomas W. Lamb was the designer along with C. E. Hill & Company of Dallas.
Jeanette Crumpler

matermama on December 16, 2008 at 4:16 pm

View link
This is an interesting article from 1944 telling about the Dr. I Q broadcast that will be done for 6 weeks from the Palace Theatre. James McClain (Dr. I Q) wanted a house to rent for the 6 weeks that the broadcast would be taking place. It seems Dr. I Q although it originated in Houston would go to various theatres including the Palace in Dallas to do a six week broadcast.
Jeanette Crumpler

matermama on December 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm

More on the Palace Theatre in Dallas, TX. I have written many times about the Palace Theatre and its theatre organs. My own personal experience was in 1948 when I heard and saw Weldon Flanagan was playing it.
The first organist on the small 3/11 Wurlitzer Opus 235, 411 that was installed in 1921 was Carl Weismann. Then in 1930 it was repossessed and moved to the Fair Park Band Shell outdoors. This didn’t work out so it was sold in 1932 to the Ambassador Hotel Coconut Grove room in Los Angeles, CA. Finally it was sold to WHEC in 1934 in Rochester NY. And later to an individual in Colorado.

The Palace Theatre changed hands in Dallas more than once after having been built by Earl Hulsey of Southern Enterprises, then later Karl Hoblitzelle sold it to RKO and finally Publix Paramount, but then Hoblitzelle was asked to buy it back as part of Interstate which he did. In 1930 a huge Publix Wurlitzer 4/20 was installed in the theatre even though sound had already come in. (after the console was displayed in a music store window for a year). Dozens of organists played the organ including Mr. LePere, Dwight Brown, Harold Ramsay (who in the 1930s played on a regular basis)and later followed by C. Sharpe Minor, Billy Muth, Leonard Holland, Johnnie Winters, Charles Evans and finally in the late 1940s Weldon Flanagan who became the permanent Palace Organist from then until 1969 when the Palace closed and was demolished in 1970. Weldon was given the organ because he had literally restored it and kept it going for twenty years. There will be an article in the January 2009 issue of the Theatre Organ Journal of the American Theatre Organ Society about Weldon and the Palace organ as well as some great pictures. The article will also tell the final fate of the organ. My latest book, “The Theatre Organ Murders” also tells the whole story of the theatre and the organs.
Jeanette Crumpler

rdklcollectables on August 1, 2008 at 10:35 pm

I just bought a lot of sheet music at an estate sale in Long Beach California with most of the music having a Raymond Le Pere stamp on them. Some of them are autographed as well.

Raymondlepere447 on April 25, 2008 at 5:36 am

Mr. Parks. Thank you for the information on the Palace organ. My father, Raymond Le Pere, played that mighty Wurlitzer in the 20’s, 30’s until WWII when he was drafted.He had a radio program on WFAA 5 days a week on that marvelous instrument.On Saturdays he played the Kiddie Klub from the Melba. He returned to the Palace on Sundays for a Hymn program. As a child I would accompany his for the weekend show where he would play the intermission music between movies. I would sit on the bench with him as we came up from the pit. What a thrill.As Bob Hope would say, “thanks for the memories” Raymond Le Pere

legsdiamond on March 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm

I saw Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason in some kind of personal appearance here when I was about 8 years old. It was a promotion for some movie they were in and now I don’t even remember the movie! Even though it was shown right after their appearance. Anyway, my parents got a kick out of it. Shame this true palace was demolished…

GaryParks on February 21, 2008 at 7:58 pm

The Dallas Palace organ now sounds forth in the restored California Theatre (1927) in San Jose. The console, however, is from the Uptown in Chicago.

kencmcintyre on January 30, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Was this the same Palace that collapsed in 1986?

JohnnyLong on August 12, 2006 at 8:30 am

I worked here most of the summer of 1965. That year, the Palace was the site of the premiere of the new Beatles movie “Help!”. Never saw so many pretty girls in one place in one summer before in all my life during the 2-3 weeks it ran (it was held over)—even though the screams got a little loud sometimes and I sorta got tired of the movie itself after seeing it about 100 times..!!(LOL..!!) As part of its promotion, they also had live bands playing in the foyer just outside the entrance to the theatre and I worked the door enough to just finally quit trying to answer the phone when people called in for showtimes and ticket-prices, etc.—you just couldn’t hear anyone..!! :)