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A movie palace or picture palace (especially in the UKmarker) is a term used to refer to the grand cinemas of the 1910s to early 1960s.

There are three building types in particular which can be subsumed under the label movie palace. First, the classical style movie palace, with its eclectic and luxurious period-revival architecture; second, the atmospheric theatre which has an auditorium ceiling that resembles an open sky as its defining feature and finally, the Art Deco theaters that became popular in the 1930s.


Grand vaudeville theatres began to show motion pictures in the early 20th century, but the development of the feature film led to the development of dedicated movie theatres. The Mark Strand Theater in New York Citymarker, opened in 1913 by Mitchell Mark at the cost of one-million dollars, is usually cited as the first movie palace of the United Statesmarker, and its success in drawing the upper middle class to the movies spurred others to follow suit.

Many movie palace architects, like studio heads, were often first generation Americans, notably John Eberson, Thomas W. Lamb, and the impresario S.L. "Roxy" Rothafel. Other pioneers include the Chicagomarker firm of Rapp and Rapp, which designed the Chicago Theatremarker, the Uptownmarker, and the Orientalmarker, and Sid Grauman, who built the first movie palace on the West Coast, Los Angeles'marker "Million Dollar Theatermarker," in 1918.

As their name implies, movie palaces, like other products of the age, were advertised to "make the average citizen feel like royalty." While inscribed with democratic sayings and patriotic imagery, they consciously referenced the grandeur of aristocratic Europe and were often decorated in European fashion.

Eberson specialized in the subgenre of "atmospheric" theatres. His first, of the five hundred in his career, was the 1923 Majestic in Houston, Texasmarker. The atmospherics usually conveyed the impression of sitting in an outdoor courtyard, surrounded by highly ornamented asymmetrical facades and exotic flora and fauna, underneath a dark blue canopy; when the lights went out, the Brenograph magic lantern machine would begin to project clouds, constellations, and special celestial effects and illusions on the ceiling.

Lamb's style was initially based on the more straightforward, 'hardtop' form patterned on opera houses, but was no less ornate. Some of these theaters were ornamented to an extravagant extent, in an eclectic exoticism where a variety of referenced visual styles collided wildly with one another. Art Deco, High Gothic, Moroccan, Mediterranean, Spanish Gothic, Hindu, Babylonian, Aztec, Mayan, Orientalist, Italian Renaissance, and (after the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922) Egyptian Revival, were all variously mixed and matched. This wealth of ornament was not merely for aesthetic effect. It was meant to create a fantasy environment to attract moviegoers and involved a type of social engineering, distraction, and traffic management, meant to work on human bodies and minds in a specific way. Today, most of the surviving movie palaces operate as regular theaters, showcasing concerts, plays and operas.

Image Gallery

Image:LouisvillePalaceFullSign.jpg|Palace Theatre, LouisvilleImage:Gateway Theatre (Chicago).jpg| Chicago's Gateway Theatremarker's Solidarity Tower in Jefferson Parkmarker is a replica of the Royal Castlemarker in WarsawmarkerImage:20070719 Chicago Theatre.JPG| The landmark Chicago TheatremarkerImage:Paramount Northwest 16.jpg|Interior and balcony of the Paramount Theatremarker in SeattlemarkerImage:Broadhist2c.jpg|Broadway Theatre, Mount Pleasant, MichiganImage:United Palace Balcony.jpg|Loew's 175th St Theatre (now United Palace Theatermarker), New YorkImage:Paramount Theatre, interior 2, Oakland.jpg|Paramount Theatremarker, Oakland, CaliforniaImage:Palace lobby.jpg|Palace Theatre, Cleveland OhioImage:RialtoSquareJoliet.jpg|Rialto Square Theatremarker in Joliet, Illinoismarker

List of movie palaces

This is a list of selected movie palaces, with location and year of construction.


See also

External links

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