The Palace Theater in Dallas had many amenities that are now lost in history. It opened in 1921 fueled by the opulence that powered the roaring 20s. The Palace seated over 2,400 people. In those days, The Palace served not only as a movie venue, but for vaudeville as well. Of course the movies in those days were silent films.
The Palace wasn’t the first movie venue in Dallas by that name. Right down the same street from its 1625 Elm location, there had been a nickelodeon by that name in the early 1900s. The “Palace Theater” name was popular, and dotted the American landscape in many towns.
The Dallas version of the Palace Theater was ornate in construction. It included a curved dome-like ceiling, complete with chandeliers and ornate frescoes. The more than 2,000 seats fanned out in a near semicircle. They surrounded the stage (or screen) with multiple aisles leading to the back of the theater like spokes on a wheel. Together with its balcony, no one sat too far from the screen. However, some people sat at an extreme angle.
It was a good thing that among the quality construction features were fire-retardant materials. A 1923 fire in an adjacent building could have doomed the theater. Yet it survived with only minor damage.
Despite the advent of sound in the late 1920s, the theater acquired a massive organ. It would rise up during intermissions from the orchestra pit fronting the screen. Many came to the palace just for the incredible sounds coming from the organ.
Early programming often included double features, a newsreel, a cartoon, and maybe some sort of “Short subject”. There was no television in those days. Movie houses attracted crowds that stayed for long periods – especially to beat the Dallas heat. (Movie theaters like the Palace in Dallas obtained air conditioning in the early 1930s.)
Chain of Ownership
The Palace Theater started as independent. It joined Paramount-Publix Theatres in 1927, Interstate Theatres Inc. in 1930, and Hoblitzelle & O’Donnell in 1941. A newer version of Interstate Theaters eventually managed the Palace until its ultimate end in 1970. Soon after the demolition of the Palace Theater at the end of 1970, a high rise office building rose up from the site.
Personal Palace Memories
Having grown up in Dallas during the 1950s and early 1960s, this writer has many memories of the Palace Theater. The experience of seeing a movie at the palace was almost overwhelming. Never since have I been able to share a movie experience in the same way, given the reactions of some 2,000 other people to enhance whatever was taking place on the screen.
One of my first car dates after getting my drivers license was attending a movie at the Palace. At that time, there was a parking garage nearby which was accessible in the evenings for free. After the movie, trying to look “cool and in control”, I descended the ramps of the garage and turned left toward the Park Cities.
The problem was that in those days the north-south freeway known as Central Expressway didn’t yet bypass downtown on elevated ramps. Instead, it detoured through downtown via what was known as the Good-Latimer Expressway. I had turned in the direction of the one-way southbound traffic. This did not become apparent until a sea of headlights greeted us as we were heading north in the wrong direction. We safely climbed a curb, but needless to say, this was an embarrassing start to my driving career.
Another not-so-great Palace memory was the start of my sophomore year at Highland Park, playing on the B team in football. Prior to the start of regulation practices, the seniors would conduct a running camp which included hazing of the sophomores entering the high school football program. We were their “gutter rats” for the two-week duration. One evening, the seniors took us to the Palace Theater. They forced us to get up on the stage during the feature presentation and do calisthenics. It only lasted a few seconds, and we were chased out the various exits by the usher corps.
- Year Started: 1921
- Year Ended: 1970
- Origin Of Name: Aspirational Name
- Location Sales: Dallas, Texas
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Independent
- Owner While In Use: Paramount-Publix Theatres
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Radio City Music Hall
- Naics Code: 512131
- Location Headquarters: Dallas, Texas USA