A sparkling jewel of downtown Canton, the Palace Theatre has one foot in history and the other very much in the present.
Built in 1926 as an ornate movie palace, the theater is steeped in vintage charm, from its red velvet stage curtain to the Kilgen pipe organ that rises from the orchestra pit, from the vibrantly colored neon signage and beckoning marquee to the projected clouds on the auditorium ceiling. “It’s designed to feel like you’re sitting in a Spanish courtyard,” said Georgia Paxos, the Palace’s executive director for 12 years.
Since 2012, the Palace has undergone about $2 million worth of renovation and restoration, including LED stage lighting, digital projection and sound, expanded restrooms, updated dressing rooms and built-in bars in the main lobby and mezzanine.
Between public and private events, the Palace is in use about 250 nights per year.
“We bring around 90,000 people to downtown Canton, and 43 percent of our patrons are from outside Stark County,” Paxos said. “Our economic impact to the community is just shy of $1 million a year. As a nonprofit, we depend on that kind of support to keep the doors open.”
In order to attract diverse audiences, the Palace offers a wide range of entertainment events. Working with LiveNation, the theater has hosted concerts by NeedtoBreathe, Michael Stanley, Boz Scaggs, Amy Grant, Art Garfunkel, Trey Anastasio, Dream Theater and others. The Canton Repository and Dusty Guitar Productions have presented shows by Kenny Rogers, Sara Evans, Diamond Rio and the Wizards of Winter.
The Palace is the performing home of the Canton Ballet, and eight area dance studios present recitals at the theater. The Canton Symphony Orchestra has performed Palace pops concerts featuring Matt Corey, Elec Simon and The Speedbumps. The Stark County District Library speakers series has included Palace presentations by Elizabeth Vargas and Bernie Kosar.
Movie-wise, the Palace offers premieres of locally made films, vintage silent films with live organ accompaniment, popular annual showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Purple Rain” and “The Big Lebowski” and is home to the Canton Film Fest, now in its eighth year. The Battle of Magicians, in its 29th year, is another popular annual Palace event.
Spirits of the Palace ghost tours at the Palace have uncovered ghosts in the theater. “They say the mark of a great theater is a patron that never left,” Paxos said. “So I’m OK with it.”
Upcoming events at the Palace include:
November 9: Black Jacket Symphony performing Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”
December 13-15: Canton Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
December 17: Wizards of Winter in concert
December 19: Diamond Rio in concert