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Palace Theatre

2004 Photo from the Scott Neff collection.
19 Clinton Ave
Albany NY 12207
(518) 465-3333

Visit Website Live Theatre National Register 1979
Record #7136  
 Opened: October 24, 1931
Capacity: 3660 seats
Architect(s): John Eberson
Architectural Style(s):
National Register: 1979    Bldg # 79003235
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As: Albany Civic Auditorium
 Previously operated by: RKO Theatres

Information for this tour was contributed by Frank Graziano.

The Palace Theatre, a grand cultural and entertainment facility in the heart of Albany , New York , first opened its doors in October 1931. 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.

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. By October 1931, the theatre was completed.

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.

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 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 the new marquee! It is a state-of-the-art full color replica of the original marquee designed in 1931.

The summer of 2005 will mark the return of movies to the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Albany, NY. When final installation of the new projection and sound equipment is complete the Palace will feature the largest screen in the Region and more importantly an amazing sound and visual presentation system. From a programming perspective, the Palace will be paying homage to the independent movie houses of old. The selections will include a mix of classics, family friendly fare and contemporary films. Efforts are being made to have at least one notable “traveling film festival” make a stop in 2006. Also in the works is to honor the Theatres history as a rock and roll Palace with a series with some of the best Rock Roll movies ever produced. Additional themed sub-series will also be included in our first season. In addition to this mix The Palace will catch the best new movies when they leave the malls whenever possible.

 Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

June 2004 photos from the Scott Neff collection.

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January 2004 photos from the Roger Katz collection.

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June 1990 photos from the John Lewis collection.

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Photos from The Palace Theatre collection.

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Last featured 12/11/2005. Last edited 7/23/2012.

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