Happy birthday to the Palace
It’s been one of my favorite places in the world since I was a teenager. I still remember the awe I felt that first time as I got just into the lobby. Those antechambers alone are impressive. Further in though, the sprawling ornate expanse of the theatre itself stunned me.
I’ve been there for plays, concerts, and a great many films. It’s where I saw the Star Wars special editions, where I went to see Man of Steel and the Star Trek Reboot. I saw House of Wax with Vincent Price there. I actually headed out there to see Thor – not because I had any interest in the movie, but simply because it was a good excuse to go out and spend some time out at the Palace. In my 20’s I took dates there, particularly if I wanted to impress them. It’s where I saw barbershop quartets ( I remember going with my parents to see our friends Jim Heath and Rick Asberry sing), as well as plays and community theatre. I saw Brigadoon there. My wife and I picked up our friend’s daughter Dara and brought her out to see High School Musical on stage there (She was obsessed with the film at the time- both the idea of seeing it live and the splendor of the theatre itself blew her mind). When I was younger, I remember peaking around the corner during play intermissions and seeing the actors in the courtyard.
This is where my daughter Lydia saw The Wizard of OZ for the first time.
Seeing films on the big screen – particuarly ones that I simply never could have seen when they were originally running has always been one of my favorite things. It’s been fun to see that trend creep over to the palace a bit (and nice to not have to drive out to the Cedar Lee in Cleveland Heights for it!). Psycho. I saw Psycho for the very first time here.
Back in my acting days I always wanted to preform on that stage. I’ve done shows in theatres all around the area from the Middle Ridge theatre with the Workshop Players, to the Old Town Hall theatre to Huntington Playhouse to Stocker center, but never the Palace. I just never got the chance before I retired from theatre. The closest I’ve gotten was doing a costume contest up there dressed as Freddy Kruger last year. The view from the stage is everything I imagined it would be.
The restoration always seemed to be going on. The platforms and scaffolding almost became a part of the theatre, but when it finally was finished, the walls and the crests and the details along every ridge of the auditorium shone with a color and a light that I had never realized possible.It’s easily the equal of the grand theatres in downtown Cleveland. As much as I love the Capitol out in the Gordon Square area and the Apollo in Oberlin, they can only aspire to the grand look and feel of the Palace. A few months ago I went with a group for their screening of Reservoir Dogs. One of my friends from Lakewood who does charity work in this area was stunned, he’d never know that this place existed.
This morning I saw the following on Facebook, and it was too good not to share.
88 years ago today the Lorain Palace Theater first opened its doors as patrons flocked into the Palace’s 1720 upholstered leather seats to watch a talking movie for the first time and were treated to a “film resume of world events.” They viewed a comedy and novelty reel, followed by Syd Sampliner and his Palace Concert Orchestra, and three acts of vaudeville. The spotlight then moved to the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ as it rose from below the stage, thrilling the audience with its pulsating crescendos. Finally, the new film – a pre-release of Paramount’s silent comic film “Something Always Happens” starring Neil Hamilton and Esther Ralston – flashed on the screen. The program ended with a finale by the Palace Concert Orchestra Theater. The opening night took over eight months to program and was done so by the Variety Amusement Company which owned and operated the Palace for many years.