The Palace Theatre reminds me why I like it in Syracuse

Coming to my neighborhood theater, two events that mean a lot to Syracuse.

Coming to my neighborhood theater, two events that mean a lot to Syracuse.

Sometimes when the thermometer is struggling to reach 0, the wind won’t stay below 20 and the ice seems to make every path in front of you glisten with menace, you wonder.

Why, exactly, do I live here?

My latest winter pass by my local Syracuse city neighborhood theater gave me a marquee reminder.

We have the Palace Theatre.

Back in the day, the big building on Eastwood’s main thoroughfare, James Street, used to show movies. First-run in its glory days, which started in the 1920s. Second-run later. Five bucks would not only get you in, but buy a paper bag of popcorn, too.

In 2004, Michael Heagerty took over ownership of the Palace after the death of his Aunt Frances, who used to take the tickets and hand over the popcorn, too. When the movie started, she’s walk the aisles and might even flick you gently in the shoulder as a reminder to get your feet down from the seat back in front of you. Frances herself had taken over running the place after the passing of Michael’s grandfather, Alfred DiBella.

Heagerty knew about presenting. He and his sister, Eileen, opened and owned the beloved music club Styleen’s Rhythm Palace in Syracuse’s Armory Square in the 1990s.

In the lsat decade, Heagerty has cleaned the Palace up, constructed lovely meeting and banquet rooms on both floors, and invited the community to rent the place for music and more.

Companies that book the Palace get a special welcome.

Companies that book the Palace get a special welcome.

When there’s a company meeting, you read about it on the marquee. When somebody’s getting married, it’s up there in black letters against the pale background. Concerts certainly get advertised in prime street-sighting position.

In fact, one side of the marquee right now trumpets the Sunday, Jan. 12 show featuring Paula Cole and Marc Cohn. Good pairing to bring back memories of the 1990s, that.

True local shows play, too. On Saturday, Jan. 11, the fourth edition of the Vinyl Live series will feature three Syracuse all-star bands playing a trio of classic rock albums.

But it was the other side of the sign that really caught my eye on the cold Syracuse morning.

Martin Sexton is playing the Palace on Jan. 24. He’s the Syracuse native who found a measure of national fame and acclaim after moving to Boston to become a street busker. Sexton is a soul singer of note, a rich and vibrant guitarist, and a songwriter who pens pieces that have been known to make me shed a tear at their beauty. He loves to come home and play in front of his family, many members of which still call Syracuse home. It’s always a joyful celebration.

In fact, I dare you to click here to witness Sexton’s song “Black Sheep” on YouTube and say you don’t dig it.

And on Feb. 1, the Palace will show the Syracuse-Duke game on the big movie screen. The Carrier Dome, you see, has sold some 35,000 tickets for that first Atlantic Coast Conference meeting ever between the two titans of college basketball, stretching its capacity and sight lines for roundball.

Heagerty’s theater will give some 680 Orange fans a chance to watch in a place where there’s a big, collective spirit. Admission will be free.

If it were warmer, my dear wife Karen and I could walk the five or so blocks from our house.

As it is, we can drive there, find a spot and get to the front door in less than five minutes. A perk of living in Syracuse, I do recall.

Do you have a local neighborhood theater that does things right? What do you consider a hometown treasure that you’d like to brag about right here and now?

17 thoughts on “The Palace Theatre reminds me why I like it in Syracuse

  1. I do remember the Palace Theatre, the little old lady (wasn’t there two), and the bags of popcorn. Loved the movies there and at Westcott. I think I preferred the smaller theaters to the huge metroplex theaters because it had a more family friendly charm. My youngest belted out the tune to “An American Tail” as the movie ended and the credits rolled, and people joined in. Great time.


  2. They just tore down my old theater in my home town. Know what they put there? A CVS. I am glad you Palace is still standing, Mark.


  3. i can so identify with this mark. this looks like an amazing place with amazing people involved. truly a part of the community. i can see why you love it.

    our local theater is one of the things i like about living in my town too, the michigan theatre,with a ton of history, and recently restored to it’s fully glory- continuing to serve as a creative and very human refuge for many people for many reasons.


      • the one with the snowmobilers, was the state theater, not quite as grand, but less than a block away, taken over and supported by the michigan theater, when it was on the edge of going under. they share films and the state shows cult films of all kinds for the student population. it seems to be a happy marriage and shows how a community can work together so well.


    • You take the city advantage when you can, Don, is what I find. Karen and are are going to go to at least one of these events, happily. I’m sure the DOAT family has some suburban adventures, too.


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