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Palace Theatre: backstage

630 S. Broadway Los Angeles CA 90014 | map |

The Palace Theatre pages: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | ticket lobby | lobbies and lounges | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | booth | backstage | basement support areas | office building

 
A look across from stage left. Thanks to Mike Hume for his 2017 photo. Visit the Palace Theatre page on his Historic Theatre Photography site for more of his great work. The occasion was a tour that was part of a League of Historic American Theatres convention.
 

A stage plan from the September 1911 issue of Architect and Engineer. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating it on Internet Archive. The staircase we see in the upper right is the bottom of an exit from the 2nd balcony. Also see the full main floor plan
 
On the left note that there was a stage entrance at the end of that exit passage. This was later redone with a 10' corridor through the stagehouse to allow exits to the alley behind the theatre, instead of to Broadway. The stage got new stairs to the basement and stage right's upper levels as well as a new stage door.   
 

A recent stage plan showing the revised layout off right. It's from the Palace's 15 page tech packet PDF. See their website: thedowntownpalace.com. There's a venue specs page as well as a nicely done venue comparison page which includes the Los Angeles theatre. 
 
 

A 1911 2nd floor plan with a couple dressing rooms offstage right. Note the false proscenium. Off left are the stairs to the alley from the front of the 2nd balcony. It's a detail from a plan included in five pages of plans and photos in the February 4, 1914 issue of The American Architect. It's on Internet Archive. Thanks to Paul R. Spitzzeri for locating it for "'A Crown Jewel Ablaze...," his 2022 article about the theatre for the Homestead Museum. And thanks to Jason Vega for spotting Paul's article. Also see the full 2nd floor/1st balcony plan
 

A 1911 3rd floor plan from The American Architect. Note more dressing rooms off right and five electric pipes indicated. Ladders to the grid are on the back wall from both flyfloors. Also see the full 3rd floor/2nd balcony plan
 

Proscenium width: 40'

Proscenium height: 35' at center

Stage depth: 31'6" from smoke pocket to back wall

Stage wall to wall: 86'

Loading:
Upstage left into the alley. There's also a loading door in the back wall upstage right plus a now-unused stage door.

Wingspace SL: 31' from proscenium to side wall

Wingspace SR: 15' from proscenium to side wall

Orchestra pit: floored over

Rigging: It's a hemp house with a few wire guide sets for electrics, screen, etc. Many other items are currently just deadhung to the grid with aircraft cable. The original hemp sets were 3 line sets. There are flyfloors at +24' on both sides of the stage -- the main flyfloor is stage right.

Grid height: 68'. It's a steel grid.

Traps: One downstage center and one 6' x 5' stage left. 

Dressing rooms: 10 in the basement, 2 on second level up SR, 3 on 3rd level SR

Basement access: Stairs downstage right. There's currently no access to the basement from stage left. 

Stage access from the auditorium: Both stage left and stage right.

Wardrobe, catering: The trap room is usable for a variety of functions.

House light control: DSR or in the booth -- a bank of SCR dimmers is in the basement.

Road power: 600A single phase 120/240 DSR. 240V three phase delta is available by cabling from other basement locations.

Projection: Screen width is about 36'. The booth has two Simplex XLs with Simplex 5 Star soundheads + Dolby Digital heads. Lamps are ORC model #4000. 

 
The Palace, called the Orpheum at the time, got covered in "Vaudeville Trails Thru the West," also known as Herbert Lloyd's Vaudeville Guide. This data is on page 115 of the 1919 edition. Thanks to Mike Hume for finding it on Internet Archive.
 
 

A wide angle look into the house from upstage left. Thanks to Wendell Benedetti for his photo of the 2017 LHAT tour that appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page.

The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation advocates for the preservation of the area's historic theatres and frequently offers tours and special events.


The proscenium striplight stage right. That's the smoke pocket for the asbestos curtain to the right of the strip. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018



The proscenium striplight stage left. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018



The trap downstage center. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2017
 
 
 
Set up for a movie. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography



Offstage right looking toward the dressing rooms. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014. Keep up with Hunter's latest explorations: HunterKerhart.com | on Flickr


The board: 
 

The 1911 vintage switchboard stage right. Thanks to LAHTF board member April Wright for sharing this 2024 photo and four others in a Facebook post about the organization's April 13 "all-about" tour. Also see a 2014 Hunter Kerhart photo looking onstage from here.



Another switchboard view. The upper horizontal axle carries the dimmer handles. There used to be a row above, now removed. The house light circuits were transferred to motorized dimmers decades ago and are now on some old SCR dimmers in the basement. All the lower items are live-front knife switches that controlled the dimmer circuits as well as non-dim items such as work lights and floor pockets. Thanks to Robert Rosenblum for this 2013 photo that he posted on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.



There are now no live circuits on the front of the board. But when there still were, it was caged. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A look through the cage at switches for houselight circuits. Thanks to Will Campbell for his 2009 photo on Flickr. It's one of 65 photos in his 65 photo album A Morning at the Palace Theater.



A stage section of the then-caged board. Photo: Will Campbell - 2009



Fuses and bus bars behind the board. Photo: Will Campbell - 2009. Thanks, Will!



The board in 1911. It's one of 21 photos of the theatre that appeared with the article "The New Orpheum Theater Building, Los Angeles" in the September 1911 issue of Architect and Engineer. Following the main article, G. Albert Lansburgh adds "An Architect's Tribute to Domingo Mora," the artist who did the sculptural work on the project. Thanks to Mike Hume for finding the articles. The issue can be viewed on Internet Archive


Views from stage right:


A peek into the house from offstage right. Thanks to the Palace Theatre for the photo. It's one that appeared on the Palace Facebook page in 2014.



The vista from upstage right. Thanks to Broadway Theatre Group for the photo by August Bradley. It's one of many great views on their Palace Theatre website. See the gallery page to start your tour. This photo appears in the stage album.



A c.2009 Gary Leonard photo looking across to stage left. Thanks to Broadway Theatre Group for the photo, one appearing in their photo gallery's stage album.



Looking toward the loading door and the stage left flyfloor. That diagonal line is an exit stair from the 2nd balcony. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010


The stage right dressing rooms and flyfloor:


A c.2009 Gary Leonard photo of the dressing room stack. Thanks to Broadway Theatre Group for the photo, one appearing in their Palace Theatre website photo gallery's stage album.



A look a bit farther downstage. It's a c.2009 Gary Leonard photo from Palace Theatre's stage album.
 


A look upward toward the flyfloor. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2017



Dressing rooms on levels two and three, the flyfloor above. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



Looking up from stage level. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A stair detail stage right. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011



A 100+ year old dressing room on the 2nd floor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



Another dressing room view. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014 



Across the stage from the 3rd floor dressing room level. We're looking at the back of the movie screen. Note the JBL speakers rolled up against the back wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



On the flyfloor stage right -- looking downstage. Note the attic access door to the right of center. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



A novel use for a pinrail -- light bulb storage. Thanks to Sandi Hemmerlein for her photo. Don't miss her Avoiding Regret photo essay about the July 2012 LAHTF tour to see the rest of her set of 28 photos: "Downtown LA's Palace Theatre, Restored (But Not Completely)."



Another view looking upstage on the flyfloor stage right. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011



Another pinrail view. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011



Old sheaves and other rigging gear. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011



A retired sheave. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011



A stage view from the flyfloor. Thanks to Albert Domasin for his photo taken at a 2012 LAHTF tour of the building. It's one of 63 photos in his LAHTF Tour of the Palace set on Flickr.



A look to stage left. Photo: Albert Domasin - Flickr - 2012



Another look across from the stage right flyfloor. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2012. Thanks, Sandi!



Peering across across toward the stage left flyfloor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



The view downstage right from the flyfloor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014


More views from stage left:


A c.2009 view across to stage right. It's a Gary Leonard photo in the Palace Theatre photo gallery's stage album.


 
A view across the stage and into the auditorium. Photo: Wendell Benedetti - LAHTF Facebook page - 2012



The house from stage left. Thanks to Broadway Theatre Group for the photo by August Bradley. It appears on the Palace Theatre website in their photo gallery's stage album.



Another look across. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2017


Out in the house:


A nice peek backstage from Martin, the photographer from Stuttgart, Germany who curated the now-vanished site You-Are-Here.



The bare stage from the auditorium. Thanks to Broadway Theatre Group for the August Bradley photo, one that appears in the Palace Theatre website photo gallery's stage album.


In the basement:
 

Downstage right. Thanks to Claudia Mullins for sharing this 2024 photo, one of 28 in a Facebook post about the April 13 Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation "all-about" tour of the theatre.  
 
Note that "door to nowhere" leading into the prop room. The stairs to the basement were originally farther offstage. They were reconfigured when the stage lost 10' of width due to a c.1929 reconfiguration of the exit passage along the north side of the building. See a 1911 floorplan



Half way down. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014
 
 

At the bottom of the stairs stage right. We're looking north toward the side wall of the building. The opening in the foreground is a recent modification for easier access to the trap room. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography



A stage basement plan from the theatre's tech pdf. 
 
Downstage of the proscenium wall from the left, opposite the stairs, it's an electrical room, and then a storage room. In the curved area under the pit it's the music library and musicians' room. To the right of the pit it's another storage room and then the beginning of the passage through mechanical rooms to the basement lounge areas under the lobby. The "X" area is the decommissioned lift mechanism.



The basement animal room upstage right. Note the drain in the floor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



A detail of some hollow tile construction downstage right near the bottom of the stairs. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011. See her Palace Theatre set on Flickr for many more views.



Downstage right, looking into a storage room. On the right is the door to the electric room. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011



The electric room. The rack of SCR dimmers at the end are for the house lights, replacing a set of motorized auto transformers. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



Switchgear on the north wall of the electric room. This area is on the auditorium side of the proscenium wall, under the proscenium box area. The large enclosure allowed transfer of the houselight feeder to a DC service in case of the AC service failure. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



An earlier view of the electrical gear. To the left are motorized house light dimmers, now replaced. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



Another view of some of the electrical service gear. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The trap room from stage right. The orchestra pit and auditorium are off to the right. The dressing rooms we see at the left are along the building's back wall. Note the lift at the end of the space. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011.
 


One of the basement dressing rooms. Photo: Claudia Mullins - 2024. Also see a shot of the same room in 2014 taken by Bill Counter. 
 
 

A restroom upstage center still with original marble. Photo: Bill Counter - 2024



One of the dressing rooms along upstage side of the trap room. Photo: Bill Counter - 2024


 
The downstage wall of the trap room. Thanks to Broadway Theatre Group for the c.2009 Gary Leonard photo. It appears in the Palace Theatre website's green room and dressing rooms album.
 
At the far end there's a firedoor to head along the south side of the building toward the lounge area under the lobby. That midget door halfway along the right wall goes into the room under the pit. The fire door on the far right just goes into a storage room.



In the trap room: the doorway to the space under the orchestra pit. Note the interesting firedoor with the second section that would drop down when the door closed. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011



The musicians' assembly room under the pit. We're looking south -- the curved wall at the right mimics that of the front of the pit above us, now covered. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2011



Looking north in the musicians' room under the pit. Through the doorway we see racks for storage of sheet music. The ladder gets you up into the pit itself -- now covered over. The doorway at right leads back out into the trap room. The toilet? No, that's not the musicians' toilet facilities. It's just sitting there after removal from another room. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



The racks for sheet music. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014



The trap room from downstage left. The orchestra pit and auditorium are to the left. Dressing rooms are to the right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The trap room from upstage left. The entrance to the musician's room under the pit is hidden behind the lift in the foreground. Out of the frame to the left is a firedoor leading around the south side of the building through mechanical rooms to the lounge area under the lobby. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014
 
Hillsman Wright, co-founder of the of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, notes: "This lift was installed by Metropolitan Theatres. Their projector repair shop was in the Palace basement. The lift was one of the original sidewalk lifts moved from the front basement. The arch on top lifted the sidewalk panels as it rose. You'll still see a bunch of these steel panels on sidewalks around Bway." See a shot of Eddie Murphy coming up on the lift in "Dreamgirls."



The lift at the stage left end of the trap room gets its closeup. The drive motor has been removed. Back in the corner there once were stairs up to stage left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2024
 
 

A dressing room stage left, near the lift. Photo: Bill Counter - 2024

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2 comments:

  1. I'd love to attend one of these trips to these beautiful theaters in DTLA.

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    Replies
    1. Well, if you're in LA, the best way to see many of these historic theatres is to buy a ticket to a show. The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation will occasionally offer a tour to a theatre. The L.A. Conservancy has a Broadway Commercial District walking tour that, schedules permitting, may get inside a theatre or two.

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