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The Palace Theatre, A Lake Placid Icon

When visiting the Adirondacks, your itinerary is likely chockablock of fantastic adventures and gastronomic pleasures; perhaps you are planning on conquering your 46th peak or exploring New York natural history or maybe you are looking only to retreat from the every day and renew your spirit by waking up to room service instead of an alarm clock. What you probably don't have on your itinerary is a night at the movies; but on your next visit to Lake Placid, you might want to reconsider.

Published: 03/31/2017

The stuff that dreams are made of.

There is something magical about going to the movies. Perhaps it is the real buttered popcorn, perhaps it is Snowcaps and Hot Tamales shuffling around in their protective cardboard box, perhaps it is the previews and feature film - a night at the movies is sacrosanct, at least it is to this writer. And there are few places that treat the cherished escape with the appropriate reverence and dignity through the years like Lake Placid's Palace Theatre.

Spared no expense.

The Palace was conceived at a time when summer vacation was all summer long. From luxurious resorts to Adirondack Great Camps, families escaped the sweltering big city heat each summer for more pleasant diversions and greener pastures. To match the renowned golf courses of the day, evening amusement was called for in the form of a cinematic upgrade to the town's original first-run theater. Billed as "the Pride of the Great North Woods," going to the movies was indeed a night out on the town. The lobby boasted a large fireplace and luxurious seating area, now home to the theater's real buttered popcorn and concession stand, the walls and ceilings were painted with spectacular art deco detail, painstakingly maintained over the years and the large auditorium was built not only to hold 925 theater goers but a magnificent Robert Morton orchestral theater organ.

If you build it, they will come.

Some might call it wishful thinking, some might call it entrepreneurial spirit; the Palace Theatre was built before Lake Placid had the population of visitors to fill it. Though patronage was steadily increasing over the years, the 1932 Winter Olympics solidified Lake Placid as a bonafide vacation hotspot and the Palace Theatre soon became a place where year-round residents could rub elbows with silver screen and radio stars and starlets of the Great Camp Era with contralto superstar Kate Smith gracing visitors to her legendary rendition of God Bless America before the film.

Love means never having to say you're sorry.

 Reg Clark was born in 1929. three years after the Palace Theatre was built. If you asked any aficionado what they would have wished their dream job could have been as budding film enthusiasts (including this blogger) theater usher during the Golden Age of Cinema would be at the top of the list. From the smart uniform and hat to the real buttered popcorn, a classic theater is more than just what's on screen and when Mr. Clark was in his teens he got to experience it first hand as an usher at the Palace while he was in high school. And while he eventually parted ways from the theater for post-secondary education and joining the family business, his love for the Palace Theatre was an enduring one. So much so that in 1961, a year after his marriage to Barbara Clark (née Fadden), he bought the place; a big surprise to his understanding new bride.

Since then, the Clark family has been faithful stewards of the Palace Theatre and in many ways, the community (clearly evident by the three generations of Clark family members who work at the Palace). Recognizing its place as a vital component in the lives of Lake Placid families and friends, when the Palace raised its prices from $6 to $7 in 2012 (its first price increase in years) it faced opposition from only one person; Mr. Clark. "Families need to be able to afford to come!" When he was assured by the community-at-large that the price increase was not only necessary and understood but welcome. This love for his theater and his community is almost tangible; from the moment he takes your ticket at the entrance to the moment he wishes you farewell for now with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. It is what makes the Palace Theatre a must visit on your next trip to Lake Placid.

You ain't heard nothin' yet!

Taking your seat in Palace One is like stepping back in time. Lovingly restored by local artist Eileen Black by removing layers of paint down to the original, the walls still feature the beautiful character of its roaring twenties origins. The stage, which at one time featured vaudeville performances in addition to first-run movies, is flanked by two sets of curtains. While from the theater side, it looks merely like an architectural detail, it is actually far more. Though the silent films that were originally shown went out of style soon after it's installation, the magnificent theatre organ has been in the same place for over 90 years - in chambers specifically designed to house them behind these curtains; one of six unaltered theatre organs in New York State, four in their original homes and one of five original Robert Morton theatre organs in their original home.

While the organ is currently silent, the Palace Theatre has begun a project to restore the organ to its original glory, spearheaded by Mr. Clark's granddaughter, Heather. Throughout the year, the Palace Theatre offers opportunities to enjoy your favorite classic films from days gone by with proceeds going to the restoration of the organ.

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