Palm Springs Expanded Plaza Theatre to Include Museum that Celebrates Theatre’s Rich Past
PALM SPRINGS — The Palm Springs Plaza Theatre Foundation announced that it has added a new museum component to its renovation plans for the iconic building. The museum will display items that honor and celebrate the theatre’s rich history and impact on the city as well documenting early Palm Springs.
In addition, the exhibition will have a large focus on the people behind La Plaza and the Plaza Theatre, primarily Julia Carnell, the person who originally commissioned the building of the shopping center and theatre project, and its architect Harry Williams. It will give an overview with context on the early development of Palm Springs and will highlight Carnell and the other pioneering “Founding Mothers of Palm Springs.”
Noted historian Steven Keylon is the chair of the committee that will curate what the museum will showcase and coordinating the acquisition of items that may be on display. Also on the committee are Plaza Theatre renovation architect Katie Horak and former Palm Springs Mayor Will Kleindienst. The museum will be incorporated into an existing corridor that runs along the southern length of the auditorium. When completed, the museum will feature stunning and fascinating exhibits that commemorate the many famous people that have graced its stage. The museum will be open to the public. Construction will begin in March 2024 and is anticipated to end in 2025.
The Plaza Theatre has an impressive role in the history of Palm Springs. The theatre’s iconic identity was established on its opening to the public in 1936 with the world premiere of the Oscar-winning George Cukor film, Camille, with its legendary star, Greta Garbo, who allegedly slipped into the back of the theatre after the lights went down.
In addition to being a movie theatre, it was also the venue for nationally-broadcast radio theatre programs by such luminaries as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, and Amos ‘n’ Andy. Over the decades, the building has deteriorated, and the Plaza Theatre Foundation has been raising funds to support the effort of the City of Palm Springs to fully restore the historic theatre.
When completed, the Plaza Theatre will be a place for the entire community to utilize as an affordable venue showcasing diverse programming for all people, local youth organizations, promoting multicultural programming in film, music, live theater, education, comedy, and entertainment for all.
“While our Foundation is still actively raising funds to support the restoration of this amazing building, we are also now reaching out to the local community and anyone else that may have a connection to the theatre to potentially donate items they might have from the theatre’s past,” said Foundation President J.R. Roberts. “So many exciting and culturally important events and shows have taken place on the Plaza Theatre’s venerated stage, and our new museum will showcase the programs, photos, costumes, and other physical items that represent the theatre’s incredible history. We are asking everyone to dig through their closets and let us know if they have something they would be willing to add to our growing Plaza Theatre collection. We are all so excited to see this amazing building on the verge of coming back to be the vibrant center of Palm Springs.”
A committee has been created that is devoted to designing the Plaza Theatre’s museum and identifying what kinds of items it might include in its collection. The team is actively researching the theater’s past and has already uncovered some unique artifacts to include in the collection.
The Plaza Theatre Foundation is working with Architectural Resources Group, Inc. and has created a plan to restore the theatre for a new life as a vibrant cultural center in Downtown Palm Springs. The City of Palm Springs has engaged Woodcliff Construction of Los Angeles as the general contractor to oversee the comprehensive renovation of the historic Plaza Theatre. When the restoration is completed, the Plaza Theatre will serve the community by hosting many kinds of events and productions and will be an exciting venue in downtown Palm Springs for live performances, film premieres, community and educational events, films, and much more. It is projected that the restoration work will take approximately one year to complete, allowing the Plaza Theatre to open in 2025.
To potentially donate items or contribute financially to the theatre restoration, visit savetheplazatheatreps.org.
The Palm Springs Plaza Theatre Foundation has already raised approximately $16M but must continue to raise an additional $10M to cover the construction costs and contingencies plus startup expenses for the iconic building. There are many ways in which the public may play a significant role in the Plaza Theatre restoration, including becoming a Founder, securing a Naming Opportunity for seats or other areas of the building, or making a general donation. The Palm Springs Plaza Theatre Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and contributions are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. For more information or to make a donation contact Foundation President J.R. Roberts at 415-297-9309 or visit SaveThePlazaTheatrePS.org.
About the Plaza Theatre
Originally built in 1936, the building was used for film premieres and screenings, nationally broadcast radio theatre programs, and other performances. In its later years, the theater was home to the long running “The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies.” Over the decades, the building has deteriorated, so the City of Palm Springs initiated a capital campaign to restore the beloved structure to its former glory.
The comprehensive restoration and rehabilitation plan will provide essential infrastructure repairs, installation of new theatrical equipment, and structural improvements to ensure that the building meets today’s fire prevention and American Disabilities Act mandates. This historic theatre has played an impressive role in Palm Springs much like the Radio City Music Hall has in New York. When the restoration is complete, the Plaza Theatre will be poised to continue to provide the city and its visitors with topnotch entertainment for years to come.
- 2023 Plaza Theatre Interior Rendering 800×568: Courtesy of Palm Springs Plaza Theatre Foundation