Palace Theatre – This major movie palace opened on May 20, 1921 as the Allen Theatre, built for Jule and Jayn J. Allen, two brothers from Bradford, Pennsylvania, who would build a chain of over fifty movie palaces in every major city in Canada between 1914 and 1919. Built next door to the Regal (later Cinema de Paris), the Allen theatre was designed by Charles Howard Crane, a renowned Detroit based theatre architect. The Italian Renaissance inspired theatre, which would be known as Montreal’s brightest and most luxurious theatre, featured a grand foyer with an oval-shaped stairway leading to a grand 2600-seat auditorium. The auditorium featured a huge decorated ceiling dome and a large proscenium arch. Along the upper walls of the auditorium was a 4-feet high frieze, depicting classic figures, painted by Theodore Jagmin and Emmanuel Briffa, an immigrant from Malta, who became one of the most sought after theatre decorators in North America.
In early 1922 the Allen was bought by Famous Players Canadian Corporation for $19,000 and renamed the Palace. On September 1, 1928 the first talking picture opened at the Palace, showing Frank Borzage’s “Street Angel”, a film with a few spoken scenes, musical accompaniment and a few sound effects. In the fall that year, the Palace showed a new “talkie” every week with the “Jazz Singer”, featuring Al Jolson being shown on December 1. On February 9, the first talking picture shot in Quebec was shown – a Fox newsreel showing the opening of the National Assembly, with a speech by Quebec Premier Louis-Alexandre Taschereau.
Renovations to the theatre were done in 1935, and in 1938 the Palace became the first theatre in Canada to show an animated feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. In October 1953 the Palace showed the first wide-screen movie “The Robe” in CinemaScope. Prices were $.75 in the mornings, $1 for matinees and $1.50 for the evening shows. News ad read: “CinemaScope the modern miracle you see without glasses”.
In 1980, the theatre was closed, gutted, and converted into a 6-screen multiplex before reopening in 1981. The Palace became a discount house in 1995. In 1999, a notice at the entrance was placed for approval for conversion into a parking garage. The theatre closed in January 2000 and then reopened as
Centre Metafloria, a high-tech amusement park, in December 2000. Centre Mirafloria closed in 2002 after losing an estimated $15 million. A Micro Warehouse call center opened in the back half of the Palace, but closed in 2003 when CDW, a provider of technology products and services for business took over. In 2016 the front of the building became a Five Guys burger restaurant and the auditorium is now office space.
Source: Movie-Theatre.org / Marquee / Heritage Canada