The State is one of the 22 theaters in my new book “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater.” Find out more here.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Over the years since it closed, the theater has 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 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.
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.
24 thoughts on “Loew’s State Theatre (State Palace Theatre)”
I absolutely love the idea of the chandeliers in front of the lower box seats.
They don’t normally go there. The chandeliers lower so the bulbs can be changed, I assume that’s why they are so low.
just like lowes poli in bpt.,ct. what a shame.
Gorgeous. How do you gain access to places like this?
I’m very persistent.
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.
Also, there were raves there in the 1990s and early 2000s. I don’t remember any raves happening there after Hurricane Katrina.
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.
It was used as a rave venue long before Katrina.
Thank you, and a bad ass one at that. It will forever have a place in my heart.
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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Simply my favorite venue to see shows….
I remember seeing Phish one night and Nine Inch Nails the next night or vice versa….I saw Incubus, 311 for halloween, Tool and every time I thought the upper level was going to collapse onto the lower level….
I started working at Loews at the age of l5 in 1954. I began as an usher and worked up to assistant manager. I left Loews in 1962. It was a grand place and I was very proud of the theatre and honored to be a part of the majestic time when theatres were so popular and were true showcases. The matchbox theatres of today can never compare with the beautiful theatres of yesteryear. It is a shame the younger generation will never experience a visit to one of them.
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An update – the current owners have filed plans to demolish this beautiful venue in order to build a hotel. If you are interested in helping to preserve this venue, please contact the New Orleans mayor and city council asking them to oppose this demolition. Any assistance in publicizing efforts to save the Loew’s State is appreciated!
That’s a shame. Do you have any more information?
Wow…I love looking at these pictures. It is such a bittersweet feeling to have so many great memories at such a beautiful venue. RIP State Palace 😦
This place is & was as one of the best venues in the south for raves. Theatres are built for sound, and ive never been in any other venue where the sound was as great. I have many fond memories, and spent many a night stomping to the beat. This place holds a special place in my heart, and hope restoration becomes reality. #FREEBASS SOCIETY FOREVER
Yes indeed! ❤