History of the Palace
Built in 1928 and renovated in 1976, this atmospheric theatre surrounds the audience with a Moorish architectural courtyard and the feeling of being entertained under twinkling stars and circulating clouds at dusk. The effect is produced by the original (reconditioned) revolutionary cloud machine in a hidden location.
The Palace was designed by the great theater architect John Eberson, nicknamed "Opera House John," for his magnificent theaters. Actual stuffed birds are suspended in the theater for realism, while his signature parrot is perched in an alcove. Try and spot it the next time you visit the Palace.
The courtyard walls are adorned by classic sculptures, that were mass produced by his company to allow the completion of the theater to be done in record time. One sculpture has George Washington dressed in Masonic garb looking down from the East balcony.
There is an unobstructed view of the stage from the balcony, for the theater was built featuring "every seat with a perfect view." Seating capacity is 1,445. Photo (right) taken from the projection booth.
A band of family crests (all fictional) arches the stage proscenium.
The original Page Organ (photo right) was sold in the early 1970's to help pay the bills. For the reopening in 1976, a "mighty" Wurlitzer theater organ was installed. It sits in the orchestra pit upon a rising hydraulic platform. Pipes for the organ are hidden behind a great screen on either side of the stage, built to look like courtyard windows (photo below right).
The theater was built with a water wash air-conditioning system when it opened in 1928. This operated until 1998 when it was replaced with a modern geothermal unit. The three story fly loft over the stage allows full "Broadway" play performances, with an internal ramp from street level to bring large vehicles and animals to the stage.
Under the stage are two large star dressing rooms with full bath. Between the two dressing rooms is the Ula Watts Green Room, complete with leather couches, creeping vines, and a bookshelf made from a leftover piece of the original Page organ. The second floor houses seven additional dressing rooms and a trunk lift opening to the stage below.
The theater was originally designed to be economically sustaining with 5 insert stores and several suites above the lobby. All of this area has now been incorporated into office or meeting rooms for the theater. The Palace features a dramatic entrance with a marquee of 560 clear bulbs underneath while another 375 bulbs light up the Palace sign which rises more than 50 feet above the marquee. The Palace is one of only 18 Eberson atmospheric theatres left in the world, and it is an attraction that should not be missed.
As the cultural home to Marion and the surrounding seven county area, the Palace is constantly undergoing many updates to enhance our patrons visits.  The Palace stage showcases entertainment from local talent l to top name performers each year.
It is also the center of attention to hundreds of school-aged children as they gather to enjoy educational entertainment. Located in the balcony of the historic theatre are the Scharer Patron Lounge and the Business Office Suite.  The Scharer Patron Lounge and the first floor Rotary Concession Room areas are home to the Arts Palace, a visual arts program.  The Arts Palace includes classes such as Cartooning, Wee Kids Theatre, Gingerbread Houses, and Mime for the Fun of It.  These quarterly classes are not only for children, but youth and adults as well.
The Scharer Patron Lounge is also the site where "The Stars" rub shoulders with members of the Palace Marquee Club, a group of donors that generously supports the theatre.  This room, along with the May Pavilion, is available for rent for such events as company meetings, receptions, and seminars.
The addition of the Sharon Bender memorial garden was built in the summer of 2000 with donations from family and friends. Due to construction of the May Pavilion in 2008, Sharon's Garden was removed.  The pergola and pavers were preserved, and plans are underway for the relocation of this beautiful memorial, being dedicated in July of 2012.
This cultural home is diverse in its activities, and we invite you to visit the Palace Theatre.  Whether for a movie, an art class, or a live performance, we're sure this is one place you will want to visit again and again.
~ Marion's Historic Palace Theatre ~