History

As it was in 1925...

1925

New Palace Theatre Beautiful

Lockport has at last entered the ranks with the world's largest cities as having one of the most beautiful and modern playhouse in existence. With the opening of the Palace Theatre at East Ave and Elm streets Saturday night, an event long anticipated, the city now takes second place to none in point of theatrical attraction.


The Palace is unquestionably the finest picture and show house in Western New York, and ranks among the best anywhere. It is a complete and wonderful achievement and one the city and country may take a just pride. The verdict was given Saturday night as the new theatre opened its doors for the first time to the public, and the stamp of unqualified approval has been fixed indelibly.


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The Erection of the Palace Theatre was due largely to the efforts of A. Edmund Lee president of the Lock City Theater Company. Mr. Lee executed all plans and discussions to see that the new super playhouse were carried through. Mr. Lee gave untiringly of time and money to make the theatre what it is, a masterpiece of theatrical designing. This theatre cost About $300.000 to build in 1925. The Palace was opened for the first time on Saturday July 17, 1925. The first production was the photoplay drama, Cecil B. Demils, The Ten Commandments. Mr. Lee was one of the principal speakers at the opening. To a crowded house he said in part:

 

"The Palace Theatre has been built not for the aristocracy but for all the people. We have labored hard for four years to give the people of Lockport a theatre of which you may be proud. We have meet and overcome opposition in the face of often repeated statements that the theatre could not be built. We have built during hard times and under difficult handicaps, but we have succeeded." "The new theatre is a palace in every sense of the word. Through our connection with the famous players, Lasky and Company we have extended Broadway into Lockport and the people of Niagara and the surrounding counties can truthfully boast that they have, for the size of the city, the most complete, the most perfect and the most beautiful theatre in the world."

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Charles A. Dickinson, its builder, has neglected nothing to make it a place of refinement and comfort; to provide all and more than the public usually expects in a theatre and the give to Lockport the playhouse it has long been deserving of and has long been without.

Crowds Attend First Night

More than four thousand persons attended the two performances Saturday night. They found their every want anticipated. Courteous uniformed attendants were at every hand, from doorman to floor superintendent and ushers. There were addresses by Congressman S. Wallace Dempsey and words of welcome by the builder, C. A. Dickinson. The picture, The Ten Commandments, was shown for the first time in the world at popular prices, and was acclaimed a master price of cinema drama by the thousands who saw it.

The crowds entering the theatre came first into a spacious filed lobby. Beautiful panels of place glass, lighting fixtures, leaded doors of stained glass depicting comedy and tragedy leading to the foyer, and as beautiful a ticket window was ever constructed were among the features first glimpsed.



Inside the theatre as the crowds entered the foyer, the lighting, subdued and mellow, the wall tints and soft carpets were a revelation. Masses of flowers banked the foyer. Soft-shaded lamps were placed in advantage. The foyer was lighted by three beautiful tint-glass chandeliers. On the right they found a free check room, and a room designed particularly for men. Here confortable chairs and a large reading table occupied the center of the room, loaded with a number of daily newspapers. The latest in toilet facilities is also provided back of the reading and enjoying room.


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On the left side of the foyer the management has provided a room for the ladies. Beautiful and comfortable furniture is found here with complete toilet articles and a maid in attendance. Young children may be left with the maid. Toys are provided for their amusement. The foyer is separated from the house by a portion of beautiful gum wood, finished in circasion walnut, anticipated by a windshield to protect the audience from drafts from the rest of the house. There were original plans to build a third floor dance hall but the high cost of trying to add this feature in the structure were soon eliminated.

Beautiful Lighting Effects

Gazing down the wide aisles a visitor to the theatre is impressed with the harmony of colors. The walls are old rose, with polychrome tints of gold and sand color, and the monster curtain and the hangings in wine color. Beautiful murals decorate the sounding boards over the stage and the walls at either side.


The center mural depicts literature seated at her throne, with music on the right and tragedy on the left side of the theatre depicts "Spring Song" and the one to the right "Playtime." Over it all is the beautiful old gold dome with its 150 lights. The side murals are also lighted in three tones.


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The Mural directly above the House in center depicts Literature seated on her Throne with Music on her right and Tragedy on her left.

These murals are still present today. All original artwork is present within the walls of the theatre.


On either sides of the stage is the gold grillwork which hides the pipes of the big Wurlitzer-Hope-Jones organ, and the keyboard in the orchestra pit is placed on a platform which may be raised or lowered by the pressure of the button.


Under the stage resides the dressing and technician rooms, furnace rooms and maintenance supply areas. There are also a series of tunnels that go underneath the main floor areas from the front of the Palace to the dressing rooms. The ventilation system also resides underneath the theatre.


Upstairs, by the way of the wide stairways on either side of the foyer is the promenade, with shaded lamps, public telephones, writing desks, ferneries and comfortable lounges. Stationary is provided gratis and patrons urged to use the Palace stationary for their correspondence. Rooms are also provided for men and women. The boxes occupy the front of the long sweep of balcony, shut off from the remainder of the seats by hands and brass rails, which are also located elsewhere in the house. Back in the day, Lucille Ball had her very own box seat and was a frequent attendee for new release movies and live shows.


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The projection room is the most modern in the world. It contains the two largest implex motion picture projections, a stereopticon, and a spotlight, and is entirely fireproof. A fireproof vault is provided for the storage of films. It is now updated to provide digitally mastered films with surround sound acoustics. George Valery was the very first film technician employed at the theatre, he wore a ring with a V shaped diamond inset, to this day it is said that at certain times you can see the sparkle of a V in the house lights. George was also a heavy smoker and at times a faint whiff of cigarette smoke can be noticed throughout the theatre.


Back stage, the theatre is equipped to handle the biggest show on the road. Everything drops, flies, and curtains are the latest and best obtainable and the entire work of installation has been supervised by C. Austin Taylor, who is stage manager of the Palace and a native of this city. His father was stage manager of the old Hodge Opera House.


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The Theatre has been through a multitude of changes and in trying to keep the Historical appeal is always in need of funding for projects to be completed. It is largely maintained by a core group of volunteers and grant funds are in constant demand.


Currently it is a not-for-profit (503-c )community building. A volunteer Board of Directors manages all aspects of the Theatre's functions. This Board has been the acting body since 1999 after working hard to bring it back to life as a community building not a privately owned franchise. The Mission Statement reads, "The Historic Palace Theatre Inc, is a community based organization dedicated to maintaining the historic and architechtural integrity of this Western NY landmark while providing a venue for the performing arts and a center for art education."


The theatre celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2010.


Palace Headlines

1921-New Palace Theatre Beautiful
1925-erection of Place largely due to the efforts of A.E. Lee and Charles A. Dickenson
1925-First Silent Film Shown-Cecil B. Demille's The Ten Commandments
1925-Palace Theatre erected and in November the First Vaudville Company, The Famous Players, is booked to a full house.
1928-Palace becomes a SCHINE Theatre until 1969 (the Schine sign is still on the marquee today)
March 1931-Theatre books Talented Orchestra
1933-Theatre strikes over, Theatre employees return to jobs Local #318 Motion Picture Machine Operators George Valery, Anthony Barone and Justin J. Burns now to return to work.
1933-Charles A. Dickenson Jr. resigns as manager Peter Gratiades from Jamestown new Manager.
1940-Palace Ad- Big Time Vaudville and "Gone with the Wind" Margaret Mitchell movie to show 2/18/1940
1973-Theatre sold to Granchelli Real Estate Developers and in 1974 after multiple restorations it was reopened. The concession stand was added at that time and interior colors were changed. A new 24-42 foot movie screen was added (the largest indoor movie screen at the time). In case of a fire on stage, the curtain will automatically come down sealing the stage from any audience.
In October of 1999, Jeffery J. Schratz, Kenneth Kurbs and James Shaw signed a one year for the Palace planning to book live events. The First week in December the DeSales Catholic School was booked to perform it's live production of "Annie".
1999-Curtain-Up Productions was founded and the new in-house Production Company was to reside within the Palace doors. By November of 1999 it was then established as a non-profit community building and currently remains in that status.
Summer of 2010-The Palace Theatre celebrated its 85th Birthday

Summer of 2015-The Palace Theatre will celebrate its 90th Birthday!

 

 

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Original design by Stephen Yoder