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How 3 Elegant Palace Theatres of Yesterday Inspires Awe in Patrons Today

As my eyes adjusted to the amber glow from ornate wall sconces, I gasped as I took in all the majesty. The grand lobby is adorned with lavish architectural details, walls of deeply hued wood tones, and plush carpeting leading to large open doors exposing a whole new world in theatre-going.

The Canton Palace Theatre – Canton, Ohio

Entering the auditorium of the Palace Theatre, I found myself turning in a circle, trying to take in everything I was seeing.

Molding and details mimicking a Spanish courtyard flanked the sides of the stage.  The sloped floor led to the grand stage displaying bold red velvet curtains, and a midnight blue sky was alive with twinkling stars overhead. Already breathtaking, I became awestruck as clouds floated overhead. Although I was inside the theatre, my senses had me in another land at another time.

This was my first time inside the Canton Palace Theatre.

Thanks in large part to restoration efforts often led by community organizers, Ohio is fortunate to have preserved some of these majestic places, known as atmospheric theatres.

As they are often more known, movie palaces were popular in the early 20th century. Created by John Eberson, an architect and stage designer, atmospheric theatres create an immersive experience, taking guests to exotic and romantic settings.

Marion Palace Theatre – Marion, Ohio

Image courtesy of Tom Yannitell and Marion Palace Theatre

In 1928, John Eberson designed the Marion Palace Theatre. Staying true to its trademark luxurious and immersive experience, it features intricate details, a grand lobby, and plush seating. However, it is the auditorium that steals the show.

With walls of stucco and climbing vines, patrons are whisked into a Spanish courtyard on a starry night as clouds drift across the sky.

Today, the theatre has been preserved while modern features have been added, making it a performing arts center and an integral part of Marion’s past and future.

Akron Civic Theatre – Akron, Ohio

In 1929, John Eberson left his trademark designs on the Akron Civic Theatre. Designed with Mediterranean decor, the theatre takes its audience to a Moorish castle with Italian sculptures, European antiques, and medieval carvings. The experience is complete with the starlit sky and floating clouds overhead.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In 2001, the grand structure was failing and desperately needed repair. Restoration efforts began, and today, The Akron Civic Theatre remains a vibrant destination for excited audiences to enjoy both on-screen and on-stage productions.

Atmospheric Theatres: Standing the test of time

In the early decades of the 20th century, stage and screen performances became a treasured experience. Going to the theatre was something people looked forward to with great anticipation giving rise to ornate theatres across the country. Although there were several types of immersive experiences, the atmospheric theatre became the perfect blend of the magic and mystery of stage performances and the grandeur and excitement of film. While many have been lost over the years, we are grateful to those with the foresight and dedication to preserve these remarkable structures for generations to enjoy.

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