ST. PAUL - The Palace Theatre in St. Paul is more than 100 years old, but for the past 40 years it has been more of a blight than a landmark.
“You know you had to look past a lot to be able to kind of envision what we could create here," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who worked for years to try to restore the old theater. "It was deteriorating. The whole wall over here was basically gone because water had been dripping in it for decades."
After opening as a vaudeville theater in 1916, the Palace turned to movies in the 1940's. Despite years of neglect, some of the old character has been salvaged.
“This is our awesome movie poster we found," said general manager Nate Kranz, who gave KARE 11 a tour during the soft opening on Thursday. “Something to take a selfie in front of. That's kind of my favorite gem."
The $15 million dollar renovation, which will largely be paid back to the city through ticket fees, focused on improving the sound, sight lines and amenities like bathrooms and bars, but it embraced the distressed ceilings and other signs of age that really have to be seen to be appreciated.
“It’s kind of got a little bit of that ruins feeling," Coleman said. "But it’s all about rock 'n roll and great music."
Speaking of rock 'n roll, Kranz, who is also GM of First Avenue, says the 2,800 capacity offers a unique options for bands and many other acts. The floor will primarily be open to general admission, while the balcony features 800 seats.
“It’s giving us an opportunity to bring a lot of bands and tours to town that might have otherwise not come to the market," Kranz said.
The Palace is already attracting some popular artists from Atmosphere to The Pixies, and it's attracting fans too. Several shows, including the aforementioned, are already sold out.
“They like it a lot because it’s unique," Kranz said. "You’re not going to come in here and mistake it for any other venue.”