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Plaza Theatre (photo credit Palm Springs Life)

Plaza Theatre

Palm Springs, California, United States

First Opened: 12th December 1936 (85 years ago)

Closed: May 2014

Atmospheric Style: Spanish Village

Address: 128 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262 Link opens in new window


Overview

The Plaza opened in late 1936 with the premiere of Camille Link opens in new window starring Greta Garbo.

Built by Julia Carnell, the theatre was designed by architect firm Schenck & Williams in atmospheric style with a Spanish village theme featuring fanciful village façades carved into the walls and twinkling, star-like lights on the ceiling.

Carnell leased the theatre to Earl Strebe, the Palm Spring’s first film exhibitor, who showed first-run movies and presented depression-era live radio shows. In the early days of Palm Springs, the village featured an annual event called the “Desert Circus” highlighted by an annual show called the “Village Insanities.” Originally performed on the grounds of the Desert Inn, the “Insanities” would later perform at the Plaza Theatre under the name of the “Village Vanities” during the 1940s.

Over the years, the theatre was the venue for memorable performances by the likes of entertainment giants Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Performers Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show broadcast radio shows from the Plaza, bringing national attention to Palm Springs. It also was one of the most popular movie theatres in the growing Palm Springs community and was the venue for a number of motion picture world premieres, including the musicals My Fair Lady and Music Man.

The Plaza Theatre closed in May 2014.

In late 2021, the Los Angeles Times reported Link opens in new window that “Frasier” co-creator David Lee, a Palm Springs resident, responded to preservationists’ calls with a $5 million pledge to the Plaza Theatre Restoration Project, launched just before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Architectural firm Gensler has been engaged by the City of Palm Springs, along with historic preservation consultants, to formulate a restoration plan. The plan calls for structural improvements, new theatrical equipment, and 670 new seats.

Information in part sourced from Save the Plaza Theatre Link opens in new window.

Further Reading

Online

Historic Photos & Documents
Auditorium, courtesy <i>Palm Springs Life</i> (JPG)
Auditorium, courtesy Palm Springs Life (JPG)
Auditorium, courtesy <i>The Desert Sun</i> (JPG)
Auditorium, courtesy The Desert Sun (JPG)
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Text copyright © 2017-2022 Mike Hume / Historic Theatre Photos.

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