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19 Clinton Avenue
Albany, NY 12207 USA
The Palace Theatre, a grand cultural and entertainment facility in the heart of Albany , New York , first opened its doors in October 1931. Built during the Depression, the Palace was the largest theatre in a city already noted for a number of other opulent movie houses. Today, the Palace Theatre remains the sole survivor of this period of entertainment and continues to make history with a widely diverse offering of popular acts and cultural events. The Palace Theatre was designed by John Eberson, one of the foremost motion picture theatre architects in the world. Originally an RKO movie house presenting vaudeville acts between feature films, the Palace Theatre boasts an ornate Austrian Baroque design with "atmospheric" elements in the auditorium. Atmospheric design referred to architectural features that created the illusion of the auditorium being open to the sky above. In the Palace Theatre, this was achieved by installing a small ceiling cove painted with clouds floating over a blue sky. Though many changes have taken place since its opening, the Palace Theatre fortunately has retained most of its original design features. These include an impressive brass chandelier in the main lobby, original murals painted by Andrew Karoly and Jules Zartol, and plaster beams in the fore-lobby painted to resemble carved wood. RKO was founded in 1928 when RCA created a film company that merged with Joseph Kennedy's film booking office, the Keith-Albee-Orpheum circuit of vaudeville houses, and the Photophone division of RCA. This was done in order to gain entry into a film market dominated by Warner Brothers and Paramount Famous-Lasky during the advent of the “talkies”. RKO commenced a building campaign to add to it's 300 theatres, four film studios, and $80 million dollars of working capital. The Palace Theatre in Albany was one of the theatres commissioned during RKO's zenith. The Palace is located on the northwest corner of Clinton Avenue and North Pearl Street on a parcel of land assembled from fifteen separate properties. Apparently some difficulty was encountered in putting together the land for two lots remained within the theatre property boundaries and the building was designed around two existing buildings which still stand. Construction started in June of 1930, barely two months after the land was actually acquired. The original working drawing indicate Fabian Securites, Inc., was the client and RKO the lessee. By October 1931, the theatre was completed. In 1930, Clinton and Pearl was at the northern edge of Albany 's busy inner-city business district. It marked the start of Arbor Hill, which was, at the time, still a fashionable residential area. Several other theatres were in the immediate vicinity including RKO Proctors, which was located directly across North Pearl Street . The scale and splendor of the Palace Theatre made the facility a success and favorite of Capital District moviegoers. In 1940, to be in compliance with a Supreme Court decision in the antitrust "Paramount Case," RKO began divesting its theatre holdings. Control of the Palace went to the FAST Theatres chain, a subsidiary of Fabian Enterprises. The Palace Theatre became remained reasonably successful, weathering corporate upheavals and economic turmoil. After World War II, however, the fortunes of the Palace, indeed of most inner-city movie houses, began to decline. Albany 's central business district began to contract and decay, the character of the Arbor Hill neighborhood shifted, becoming less attractive to movie goers and of course, television came into widespread use. In an effort to revitalize sagging attendance (and perhaps to eliminate some maintenance problems) Fabian Enterprises invested a quarter of a million dollars in 1960 to renovate the entry façade and revise the seating to provide more space. The effort was not successful and the theatre continued to lose money. The theatre finally closed it doors in September of 1969. Shortly thereafter, the Palace was purchased from Fabian by the City of Albany for $90,000 for use as a civic auditorium. In 1979, in recognition of its architectural and historic significance, the Palace Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though movies were no longer part of regular programming, the Palace Theatre gained renown in the eighties as a concert venue for popular acts. In 1989, the Palace Performing Arts Center was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation to manage the business activities of the theatre. The Palace Theatre's became and continues to be the most diversified in the Capital District and is still the home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. The Palace Theatre's 2,844 seats are an ideal size for popular acts, (such as Melissa Etheridge, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Aretha Franklin), theatrical events, (including Stomp, Tap Dogs, Grease, and A Christmas Carol), gospel shows, community events, (First Night Concerts, Mayor's Inauguration, Albany Law School Graduation, Armed Forces Bands), local dance studio recitals, daytime children's presentations, and even boxing. Arguably the most notable concert event took place at the Palace Theatre in April of 1965 when the now legendary Rolling Stones appeared here on their first tour of the United States . The revitalization of the Palace Theatre has been a major priority of the City of Albany to help create a new energy for the downtown arts and entertainment district. Beginning in 2002, interior renovations completed in the first phase included all new carpeting, a stage curtain, fabric wall treatments, fresh paint on the ceiling and throughout the theatre, general public improvements and the refurbishment of over 2,800 seats. Phase Two renovations called for a new electrical system to power the stage. And of course the most obvious of our renovations (also in Phase Two) is our new marquee! It is a state-of-the-art full color replica of the original marquee designed in 1931. The new marquee fabrication and installation was made possible by a grant from Housing and Urban Development (sourced through the office of the Mayor) and a grant provided through the Downtown Business Improvement District. Stayed tuned…as they say…the best is yet to come!
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