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Key Number: HS 62592
Site Name: Palace Theatre
Other Names:
Site Type: 0204 - Social and Recreational: Theatre or Cinema
0499 - Mercantile/Commercial: Other


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
23 1 5

Address: 219 - 8 Avenue SW
Number: 19
Street: 2 SW
Avenue: 8 SW
Town: Calgary
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape: Rectangular
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Brick
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Flat
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: Dimensions: about 100 x 130 (1980) Engaged pilasters tipped with Corinthian capitals on a sandstone sill.
Small decorative balconies on 2nd floor windows, segmental windows.
End windows - north elevation are rectangular and have a triangular pediment over each. Small decorative panels below plain frieze.
Brick parapet.
Interior: N/A
Environment: Located on 8th Avenue Mall, highly commercial area, across mall from Hudson's Bay Company store. It covers four city lots - is 100' wide and stands four stories high. Its entrance is flanked by four shops, and a large neon-lighted marquee is set over the entrance way. The facade of the building is therefore centred above street level.
Condition: Good (1980)
Alterations: N/A


Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Started
Usage: Usage Date:
Movie theatre
Owner: Owner Date:

Architect: N/A
Builder: N/A
Craftsman: N/A
History: Known as Allens Palace Theatre, shortened to Palace Theatre in 1922, 1923.
Large seating capacity including balcony. Sometimes used for musical presentations. Last of the large old style of multipurpose theatres in Calgary.
In addition to being one of the oldest theatres in Calgary, the Palace Theatre with its stage, is also associated with William Aberhart.
In November, 1925 William Aberhart originated his radio broadcasts over CFCN from the Palace Theatre.
Aberhart used the Palace for his regular Sunday afternoon addresses until the construction of the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute in 1927.
* * *

Historical Profile Date of construction - 1921.
Type - Reinforced concrete with brick curtain walls. This construction was at one time quite common. Other examples include the Herald (formerly Calgary Furniture Store) building and Alexandra Hotel.

Renovations - New 'vitrolite' tile front added to 8th Avenue entrance, 1950. Cost: $14,000.
Use - Theatre. (capacity, 1797).

The Palace was opened in 1921 by Allen Theatre Enterprises. It was originally known as Allen's Palace to distinguish it from the Allen Theatre, further east on 8th Avenue and operated by the same company.

In 1925 the 'Palace' was acquired by National Trust Co. Ltd. and by 1930 was part of Famous Players Canadian Corp. Managers have included, T.R. Tubman, L.C. Straw, Peter D. Egan and Don Menzies. It was during Egan's term (1929-1950) that the stage was as heavily used as the screen. Use of the Palace for vaudeville, Wm. Aberhart's radio broadcasts as well as moving pictures is well established. The theatre also appears to have been the first in Calgary to introduce bandmusic with silent pictures. Today it continues operation as a movie and live concert house.
* * *

The Palace theatre was built at the height of the 'movie palace' craze. Moving pictures, still silent, had reached great heights of popularity and large, richly decorated theatres were built to add to the enjoyment of the movie goers. Movies were still quite short and programming included vaudeville acts, orchestral items and organ recitals. A 7-piece Palace Orchestra accompanied the movies themselves. As was usual, the Palace was built with a stage, dressing rooms, an orchestra pit, a pipe organ, and lodges in the balcony.

Ornate decoration and classical motifs in the lounge, foyer and auditorium were accentuated by colourful and plush drapery and furnishing.
The Palace theatre was built by the Allens, a Canadian Company which had its headquarters in Calgary for a few years. It went on to become the largest theatrical chain in Canada, with film exchange and distribution subsidiaries. Soon after the completion of the Palace the Allens fell into deep financial trouble and their assets were acquired by Famous Players Canadian Corporation.

As well as serving the movie going population for 61 years, the Palace took part in the first public radio broadcast in 1922, hosted William Aberhart's Back to the Bible Hour talks; premiered a movie made by a Calgary company; and welcomed many well known singers and instrumentalists, and untold numbers of amateur and professional performers.

C. Howard Crane of Windsor, Otario, who designed most of the Allens' theatres, was the architect of the Palace. He was known for his traditional Beaux Art concepts and his style of decoration followed that of the 18th century Adams brothers.

The imposing brick facade is separated into seven bays by fluted Corinthian pilasters. The two outside bays are slightly recessed, the outer bays the windows are smaller and topped with a triangular pediment. In the five central bays the double sash windows have side glass panels and large semicircular panels above which are richly decorated. A low iron curved balcony is set outside each one. A carved stone panel is set in the five central bays above the windows.

All ceilings and some of the walls are elaborately decorated with plaster designs. Of particular interest is the intricately designed grill work which fills in the simulated windows on the walls near the stage. There were three of these on each side of the auditorium, but the others have been covered and painted.
* * *

The Palace Theatre, designed by C. Howard Crane, was built by the Allen Theatre Enterprises in 1921 at the height of the plush and opulent 'movie palace' days. The Allens, who were based in Calgary for a few years, controlled the largest chain of movie houses in Canada.
Movie palaces offered a combination of vaudeville and moving pictures, but the advent of talkies soon spelled the end for vaudeville. The imposing brick facade, with classical columns, windows and motifs, and the theatrical atmosphere of the foyer, lounge and large auditorium are typical of the movie houses of the 1920's.

It was from the stage of the Palace that William Aberhart commenced his Sunday afternoon broadcasts, which were to lead to the development of the Social Credit movement in Alberta.

Plaque status: Plaqued in 2005

Designed by internationally renowned theatre architect Howard C. Crane.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List
Federally Designated
Provincial Historic Resource

Register: 01-139
Record Information: Record Information Date:
S. Khanna 1993/05/21


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0546
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