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The Majestic Theatre (Dallas)

The Majestic Theatre is a performing arts theater in the City Center District of Downtown Dallas. It is the last remnant of Theater Row, the city's historic entertainment center on Elm Street, and is a contributing property in the Harwood Historic District. The structure is a Dallas Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

History

The Majestic Theatre in 2009

Designed by John Eberson under direction of Karl Hoblitzelle, the Majestic Theatre was constructed in 1920 as the flagship theater for Interstate Amusement Company, a chain of vaudeville houses.[2] The $2 million Renaissance Revival structure opened on April 11, 1921 with a seating capacity of 2,800.[3] It replaced a previous theater of the same name (located at Commerce Street and St. Paul Street) which burned down in 1916.

The interior was originally divided into theater and office space, with 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of the upper four floors used as the headquarters of the Interstate Amusement Company. The interior lobby and auditorium was of baroque design with decorative detailing consisting of Corinthian columns, egg-and-dart molding, cartouches, and Roman swags and fretwork. The lobby contained a magnificent black-and-white Italian-style Vermont marble floor and twin marble staircases. Other features included an ornate cage elevator serving the two balconies, crystal chandeliers, brass mirrors, ferns, and a marble fountain.[2] A concession stand was added to the lobby in the late 1940s.

The auditorium featured a ceiling "sky" of floating clouds and mechanically controlled twinkling stars. Seating was provided on the main floor and in two balconies in woven cane seats. The stage was flanked by massive Corinthian columns, with an orchestra pit in front. Backstage consisted of twelve dressing rooms, a loft to accommodate scenery, and a set of wooden lighting controls. A Kilgen theater organ opus 3054 size 2/8 was also installed.[4]

The Majestic was the grandest of all the theaters along Dallas's Theatre Row which stretched for several blocks along Elm Street. The Melba, Tower, Palace, Rialto, Capitol, Telenews (newsreels and short-subjects exclusively), Fox (live burlesque), and Strand theatres were all demolished by the late 1970s; only the Majestic remains today.[5]

The Majestic hosted a variety of acts from Houdini to Mae West and Bob Hope during the vaudeville era. Beginning in 1922, films were added to the regular vaudeville offerings. The theatre began hosting movie premieres and associated stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, and John Wayne. The Big Bands featuring Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington continued the tradition of live entertainment at the Majestic.

In 1932, the Majestic began showing movies exclusively. On July 16, 1973, the Majestic Theatre closed after the final showing of the film “Live and Let Die”.

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