Palace Theatre New York
Palace Theatre New York
Designed by architects Kirchoff & Rose, the theatre, built by California vaudeville entrepreneur and Broadway impresario Martin Beck, experienced a number of problems before it opened. E. F. Albee, one of the main executives for B. F. Keith and his powerful vaudeville circuit, demanded that Beck turn over three-quarters of the stock in the theatre in order to use acts from the Keith circuit. In addition, Oscar Hammerstein was the only person who could offer Keith acts in that section of Broadway, so Beck paid him off with $225,000. The theatre finally opened on March 24, 1913 with headliner Ed Wynn. To "play the Palace" meant that an entertainer had reached the pinnacle of his career, and it became a popular venue with performers like Sarah Bernhardt, Eddie Cantor, Bob Hope, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, George Jessel, and Jack Benny.
With the Great Depression came a rise in the popularity of film and radio, and vaudeville began its decline. In 1929 the two-a-day Palace shows were increased to three. By 1932, the Palace moved to four shows a day and lowered its admission price. In November of that year, it converted to a movie house. There was a brief return to a live revue format in 1936, when Broadway producer Nils T. Granlund staged a series of variety shows beginning with "Broadway Heat Wave" featuring female orchestra leader Rita Rio. Citizen Kane had its world premiere at the theatre on May 1, 1941.
In the 1950s, the RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) chain tried to revive vaudeville with shows by such names as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye, Betty Hutton, and Harry Belafonte. While the shows were successful, they did not lead to a revival of the genre. On January 29, 1966, the Palace reopened as a legitimate theatre with the original production of the musical Sweet Charity, although for a period of time it showed films and presented concert performances by Bette Midler, Josephine Baker, Eddie Fisher, Shirley MacLaine, Diana Ross,Vikki Carr, and the like between theatrical engagements.
In the 1980s, a towering hotel was built above the theater, cantilevered over the auditorium; today, the theater is practically invisible behind an enormous wall of billboards and under the skyscraper, and only the marquee is visible.
The Palace is somewhat infamous for having an enormous and difficult-to-sell second balcony in which nearly every seat has an obstructed view.
The theatre recently housed Legally Blonde: The Musical, a stage adaptation of the 2001 film, which played its final performance on October 19, 2008 after 595 performances and 30 previews at the Palace.
The Palace Theatre is currently owned and operated by The Nederlander Organization and Stewart F. Lane.