The Spirit of the Majestic Theatre


on Sunday, September, 08 2013 @ 04:58:32 pm (813 words)
In Uncategorized [ 114071 views ]

 

The beautiful Majestic Theatre has been one of the most impressive of Dallas, Texas, landmarks since its construction in 1920 and 1921. This five-story Renaissance Revival edifice located at 1925 Elm Street was designed by John Eberson, the noted Chicago architect, under the direction of Texas businessman Karl St. John Hoblitzelle, a successful manager of vaudeville and movie theaters, and built at a cost of nearly two million dollars. With a seating capacity of 2,800, it opened on April 11, 1921, during the final years of the vaudeville era.

The flagship of Karl Hoblitzelle's Interstate Amusement Company chain of theaters, the Majestic was the most impressive of a number of vaudevillian theaters that lined "Theater Row," which composed an entertainment district of several blocks along Elm Street.  By the late 1970's all of these establishments but the Majestic had been demolished.

The Majestic is the third Hoblitzelle theater in Dallas to be so named (though there were other Majestics in the chain). It was built to replace the original Majestic Theatre that burned in 1916. That structure, built for Hoblitzelle in 1905, was located at the corner of Commerce and St. Paul streets.  During the construction of the new building, the Old Opera House at the corner of Main and St. Paul was the temporary home of the Majestic.

Impressively ornate throughout, the Renaissance Revival style Majestic Theatre was aptly named. The exterior front of the first-floor level originally was covered by an attractive canopy above which was affixed a large and impressive marquee and decorative lighting.

Much of the upper four floors of the building (20,000 square feet) served as office space for conducting the business affairs of the Hoblitzelle chain. The indoor lobby and auditorium were decorated in the baroque style featuring elements such as Corinthian columns, egg-and-dart moulding, Roman swags and fretwork, and cartouches. Two upper balconies were reached by an elegant cage elevator featuring brass railing as well as carriage lamps on either side.  The lobby featured beautiful black and white marble flooring and twin marble staircases. Brass mirrors, crystal chandeliers, ferns, and a marble fountain like one in the gardens at the Vatican added to the "Roman gardens" theme of the theater.

Opened as an entertainment venue near the end of the vaudeville era, the Majestic in 1922 also began featuring motion pictures. Having hosted such show business luminaries as Mae West, Harry Houdini, Jack Benny, and Bob Hope, the theater increasingly was used for showing movies, with the live entertainment tradition carried on in occasional appearances of big bands featuring Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. A Fort Worth resident named Ginger Rogers began her show business career singing and dancing at the Majestic. In 1932 the theater began showing movies exclusively. With the July 16, 1973, final showing of the movie Live and Let Die, the Majestic Theatre "went dark."

The Majestic was used as the setting of the concert scenes in the 1974-released motion-picture-musical Phantom of the Paradise, written and directed by Brian De Palma. In January 1976, the Majestic was given to the city of Dallas by the Hobilitzelle Foundation. Careful, extensive, and detailed restorations and renovations under the direction of Dallas's own Oglesby Group soon began. In 1977 the elegant edifice became the first Dallas building added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1983 its import was recognized through a marker from the Texas Historical Commission.

The Majestic Theatre reopened on January 28, 1983, and today hosts a range of shows such as comedy acts, dramatic plays, nationally touring concerts, and locally produced cultural and fundraising events.  Managed by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the theater is also a venue for private functions and corporate meetings.

As one would expect with a building nearing a century in age, reports have been made that would indicate a haunting of this historic showplace.  Odd fragrances, backdrops that move unaided by human hands, and phone lines that light up though no one is calling have been cited as evidence of spectral presence. On several instances a single light bulb in a circuit containing other lights in the balcony has been said to suddenly illuminate. These and other strange occurrences have been attributed to none other than Karl St. John Hoblitzelle who passed away in 1967 but whose spirit is said still to linger in the theater he so loved. Joy Tipping a writer for The Dallas Morning News reported that in her twenties while working with the Dallas Ballet, which had offices on the upper floor of the theater, that her particular office had an inexplicable chill that necessitated her bringing a sweater to work. A door leading from the office into the theater likewise strangely was often unlocked and open though securely locked by her the evening before. She was finally informed by her boss that the office had been that of Hoblitzelle who used it as his personal entrance into the theater to check on performances.

 


1 comment

Comment from: Augie Doggy [Visitor]
Augie DoggyYup, definitely haunted. I enjoyed the article.
09/08/13 @ 22:09

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