A Community Staple
“Everything I learned I learned from the movies.” ― Audrey Hepburn
When planning a trip to Lake Placid most people are probably thinking about visiting the Olympic Venues or doing something ourdoorsy; hiking a high peak, swimming in Mirror Lake, going for a toboggan ride… But what happens when the weather isn’t in your favor?
Whether it’s too cold, pouring rain, or you just want to take some down time, visiting the Palace Theatre is a great option!
Built in 1926, the Palace Theatre still has a nostalgic vibe that brings you back in time, while being able to enjoy the movies of present day. The Palace Theatre was purchased as a wedding present by Reg Clark in 1961 for his wife Barbara, and has remained in the Clark family ever since. Generations of Clark family have worked at the Palace Theatre in some capacity over the years, including all five of Reg and Barbara’s children, plus grand-children, nieces, and nephews.
Reg Clark’s connection to the Palace Theatre spans back to his high school days where he worked a variety of positions. At the time, tickets cost $0.12 (+ a penny tax!) Prices have increased since, but stay relatively cheap, especially in the movie theater world! Prices today are $7 for adults ($6 for matinees) and $5 for children. The Palace Theatre also has a concession stand with all your basic snacks; #realbutteredpopcorn, soda, and a variety of sugary sweets – also at a great price!
Today, the Palace Theatre has four screens, thanks to renovations. When the Clark’s purchased the theater in 1961, it had a single screen. At the time, it was one of 12 cinema screens in the area. By 1983, the Berkeley Theater in Saranac Lake was the only other theater still open (the Berkeley was also run by Reg Clark and closed in 2000.) 1983 also brought change to the Palace Theatre. For 20+ years, the theater rotated several movies a week on a single screen. Reg decided it was time to change that and closed off the balcony to create a second screen upstairs. On June 10, they had a grand re-opening with a special performance. Legendary signer, Kate Smith, who had a nearby seasonal home and would often visit the Palace Theatre, sang “God Bless America.”
Two years later, in 1985, Clark sectioned the upstairs theater in half and created a third screen. Looking to expand even more, the Palace Theatre underwent construction again in 2001. A former dressing room and part of the original stage were turned into a small 50-seat room for a fourth screen.
As technology changed and evolved over the years, the process of showing movies also changed. Many theaters started changing over from 35mm film to digital as the major motion picture companies stopped making film prints. The cost to upgrade was not cheap, but the Palace Theatre, like many small non-chain theaters, faced closure unless they upgraded their equipment. Thankfully, with a lot of support from the community and the Go Digital or Dark Campaign, enough money was raised for the Palace Theatre to be able to make the $266,000 plus upgrades. On June 14, 2013, the first digital movie was shown at the Palace Theatre, and by April 2014, all four screens were converted. Theater one still has a 35mm film projector to use for special events.
The Palace Theatre is a staple in the Lake Placid community and is the center for a variety of events throughout the year. Some of these events include The Lake Placid Film Festival and Holiday Village Stroll. During the Film Festival over 30 films are shown across seven screens (four at the Palace Theatre) during one weekend. 2019 will mark the 19th year for the festival. During the Holiday Village Stroll, the Palace Theatre offers a free matinee showing of “THE POLAR EXPRESS” with free popcorn and special gift for the first 150 kids. They also have an annual Holiday movie showing where they offer free admission, free popcorn, goodie bag and visit from Santa after the show!
The Palace Theatre still has the original Robert Morton organ – one of the only original theater organs left in the country. The Robert Morton Company closed in the late 1920’s when “talkies” hit the screen. The organ cost around $25,000 when it was purchased in 1926. That’s equivalent to about $357,028 in 2019!
The organ was rebuilt in 1998 and had its revival debut in October 1998 for the Lake Placid Institutes Silent Film Festival. The Palace Theatre’s organ is unique in its rare add-on “toys” – the drums, whistles, and other percussion instruments that were played along with the organ on soundtracks to the Twenties silent film classics.
Many employees of the Palace Theatre, as well residents of the apartments above the theater, have had encounters with a theater ghost. George, the friendly ghost, has been said to have made his presence known on multiple occasions from “doing construction” to impromptu séances to just making a visit in the theater!