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Loew’s State Theatre (State Palace Theatre)

October 16, 2013
View of the auditorium from the top balcony.

View of the auditorium from the top balcony.

The Loew’s State Theatre opened on April 3, 1926 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was built by renowned theater architect Thomas W. Lamb for the Loew’s Theatre Corporation. The 3,335 seat theater cost $1.5 million ($20 million adjusted to current value) to build. At the time of the opening, the “New Orleans Item” proclaimed the State, “the greatest playhouse south of Philadelphia and west of Chicago.”

A bar was added to the lobby mezzanine when the theater was in use as a concert venue

A bar was added to the lobby mezzanine when the theater was in use as a concert venue

Like many theaters of its day, the State originally showed vaudeville and silent films before switching over to talking pictures, or “talkies.” The theater had a large stage, orchestra pit, organ, a number of dressing rooms, and even a kennel in the basement for animal acts. The opening movie was “The Devil’s Circus,” starring Norma Shearer. Like many theaters at the time, the State was built with segregated sections, so it had a separate entrance, ticket booth and 600 seat balcony for its non-white patrons. The balcony was closed in 1950, and the State became an white-only theater until 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was instituted.

View of the auditorium from the box seats.

View of the auditorium from the box seats.

In 1976, the theater was multiplexed, with two screens on the main level of the auditorium and one large one in the balcony. During the conversion much of the marble in the lobby was covered with plastic panels, and the chandeliers were sold to a local antique store. Loew’s sold the theater in 1984 to Wilson P. Abraham, who planned to demolish the theater and build condos. The city denied Abraham’s plan and he eventually leased the theater to Rene Brunet, Jr. Brunet, a professional theater operator, had the multiplexing removed and restored the theater to a single screen. It was renamed the State Palace Theatre and began to screen classic movies, live theater and concerts. The first live show was a revival of the tv show “The Jeffersons”, featuring the original cast.

A close up of the main auditorium chandelier.

A close up of the main auditorium chandelier.

During this time many famous bands played the State including: Incubus, Marilyn Manson, 311, Duran Duran, Smashing Pumpkins, Korn, Tool, New Found Glory, Goo Goo Dolls, Morrissey, Dave Matthews Band, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam and Sheryl Crow. After closing due to the damages caused by hurricane Katrina, the theater reopened sporadically as a rave venue. It was shut down on February 15, 2007 due to fire code violations.

Not every act enjoyed performing at the theater. While on stage, Morrissey told the crowd that the visibly deteriorating theater was a “miserable venue.”

Not every act enjoyed performing at the theater. While on stage, Morrissey told the crowd that the visibly deteriorating theater was a “miserable venue.”

Over the years since it closed, the theater has as seen a number of different plans for it’s revival, including an interactive museum dedicated to the music of Louisiana and a plan to reopen the theater as a performing arts venue, but the neither one came to pass. Movies filming in New Orleans have also taken advantage of the space. In 2012, while filming the movie “Now You See Me” at the theater, actor Michael Caine fell asleep in one of the former dressing rooms and was locked in overnight. The State Palace remains closed, with no current plans for restoration.

A close up of some plaster-work on the wall of the auditorium.

A close up of some plaster-work on the wall of the auditorium.

The kennel in the basement was once used to house lions and tigers for a circus that was performing at the theater.

The kennel in the basement was once used to house lions and tigers for a circus that was performing at the theater.

The lobby was restored in the early 90's, but has already begun to visibly deteriorate.

The lobby was restored in the early 90’s, but has already begun to visibly deteriorate.

Some of the projection equipment remains after the theater closed.

Some of the projection equipment remains after the theater closed.

View of the auditorium from the side of the mezzanine.

The Robert Morton organ was only used until around 1932, and the console was later damaged in a flood. The organ pipes were sold for parts.

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In the 60's and 70's the upper balcony was only used during popular films, such as the James Bond series.

In the 60’s and 70’s the upper balcony was only used during popular films, such as the James Bond series.

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View of the auditorium from the mezzanine.

View of the auditorium from the mezzanine.

The information in this post was obtained with the help of the Theatre Historical Society of America, for more information including how to join – check out their website at www.historictheatres.org

© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2013 2:09 pm

    I absolutely love the idea of the chandeliers in front of the lower box seats.

    • October 16, 2013 3:31 pm

      They don’t normally go there. The chandeliers lower so the bulbs can be changed, I assume that’s why they are so low.

  2. October 16, 2013 3:54 pm

    Amazing photos.

  3. October 17, 2013 5:11 pm

    Nice photos

  4. ray permalink
    October 17, 2013 7:41 pm

    just like lowes poli in bpt.,ct. what a shame.

  5. October 31, 2013 2:27 pm

    Gorgeous. How do you gain access to places like this?

  6. Nola Loews permalink
    November 22, 2013 3:45 am

    The Brunet family only leased the theatre. The land under the theatre is still owned by Canal Realty & Improvement. The theatre was & is still owned by the descendants of the Abraham family, who are absentee landlords residing in Florida. The theatre sustained minimal damage in Hurricane Katrina, and was the first and only place of public assembly open & functioning after the storm. The Brunet’s lease was not renewed by the landlords, who instead leased the theatre to another operator for more money, but who unfortunately spent no money on maintenance & thus brought about the closing of the theatre for fire code violations.

  7. January 13, 2014 3:30 pm

    Also, there were raves there in the 1990s and early 2000s. I don’t remember any raves happening there after Hurricane Katrina.

    • January 13, 2014 3:45 pm

      There are videos on youtube of raves at the State Palace in 2006, and according to the Associated Press it was shut down on Feb. 15 2007 by a court order from Civil District Court Judge Nadine Ramsey.

  8. January 13, 2014 3:39 pm

    It was used as a rave venue long before Katrina.

    • Justin permalink
      January 14, 2014 3:35 am

      Thank you, and a bad ass one at that. It will forever have a place in my heart.

  9. Greg permalink
    January 14, 2014 9:12 am

    This place will live on in a generation of people not for what it’s original purpose was but for the now legendary parties/raves that took place in this venue. Some may not want to acknowledge it but that is it’s legacy.

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