The Palace Gets a New Crown

By Kelly Moran

The Palace Gets a New Crown

A new roof is going on the Palace Theater, but most folks won’t notice because the shape will stay the same. Hilo’s last surviving “picture palace” retains much of its original 1925 appearance, from the neon sign over Haili St. to the Art Deco tiles and paint jobs in the lobby and the auditorium.

The Palace is one of three movie theaters in Hilo. There’s an eight-screen multiplex in the mall at Prince Kuhio Plaza, for 3D and mega-hits, though also for live HD broadcasts of Broadway shows and opera from the Met in New York. And there’s the Kress multiplex, downtown on Kalakaua St. where half a dozen films go after they’ve run at the mall, for only $1.50! (The next-closest theater showing movies on a regular basis is the People’s Theater, a 40-mile drive up the Hamakua Coast, in Honokaa.)

The Palace is something of an “art house” most of what’s screened are independent productions and foreign-language films, and prices fall between the mall’s and Kress’s. Surfing movies draw big crowds to The Palace, and so do outdoor and conservation pics. A special treat at The Palace, once or twice a year, is the opportunity to see a silent movie from the ‘20s, accompanied – as it was then – by an enormous pipe organ, for The Palace is home to the only surviving theater organ in Hawaii.

Palace Theater

But films aren’t all you can see at The Palace. A 45-minute stage show called “Hawaiiana Live” is performed every Wednesday at 11 a.m., free of charge; it’s popular with visitors, and many local folks take visiting family, to get a taste of Hawaiian mele (song) and hula (dance).

Annual festivals and unique performances are also in The Palace’s calendar. In any given month there might be a classical music series showcasing young performers, a celebration of Taiko drums, a recital by the Puna Men’s Chorus . . . even an organ concert.

And every October, the Palace hosts the Fall Musical, a production of the local theatrical community. Past shows include “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and – coming up this Fall – “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”

As I was saying, The Palace still has much of its original charm . . . but it also some of its aging infrastructure. Earthquake-bracing, modern sprinklers, and other code- and safety work has been done, so now it’s the roof’s turn. The materials will be new, but the new roof will keep the same familiar shape. It’s all thanks to historic-preservation grants, and to donations made to the “Crown” Project by local theater-goers, through the not-for-profit Friends of the Palace Theater [].

Hooray for them!

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