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Morris Performing Arts Center

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The Morris Theater, originally called the Palace Theatre until the late 1950s, was built in 1921 as part of the Orpheum Theatre chain. At that time, the theater cost $1 million to build and was constructed on a $100,000 piece of property. It was the most modern theater in the country.

In its early days, it served as a vaudeville house and vaudeville shows ran continuously with a new act every ten minutes. Patrons could obtain admission for just 22 cents and enjoy the day's new acts as they made their way on and off the stage. Broadway troupes traveling from New York to Chicago would often stop in South Bend and perform on the Palace Theater stage on their way through the area. The Palace also presented serial photo plays (silent films), which were the soap operas of their day. This kept the audience coming back because they didn't want to miss an important plot twist.

At its inception, the interiors of the theater were glorious. Old roses, blues and creams predominated and not one singular architectural style could define the whole of the structure. The architect, J.S. Aroner from Chicago, envisioned the theater as a little palace; a place in which theatergoers could feel as if they were royalty. A trip through the theater was intended to make a patron feel as if he or she had just made a trip through Europe. With many different architectural styles including Baroque, Spanish Renaissance, Greco-Roman and even a little Art Deco to name a few, patrons entered intricately detailed and carefully planned interiors when they entered "The Palace".

The theater has seen its good days and its bad days. Through the 20's, 30's and 40's, the theater hosted a plethora of famous artists and acts such as Ziegfield Follies featuring Fanny Brice, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Amos and Andy, Houdini, Betty Davis, Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds, Imogene Coco, The Gene Autry Show, Elvis Presley and, yes, even Frank Sinatra, to name a few. Crowds would attend in staggering numbers.

On October 4, 1940, the Palace even hosted the World Premier movie: "Knute Rockne: All American" starring Ronald Regan as George Gipp ("The Gipper"), Rudy Vallee, Bob Hope, Jane Wyman, Kate Smith and Pat O'Brien as Knute Rockne. Twenty-four hundred people enjoyed the premier inside the theater and twenty-four thousand gathered outside the theater with the hope to catch a glimpse of the big stars.

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Details and Specs

Hours of Operation:
Mon10:00 AM6:00 PM
Tue10:00 AM6:00 PM
Wed10:00 AM6:00 PM
Thr10:00 AM6:00 PM
Fri10:00 AM6:00 PM
Sat10:00 AM2:00 PM
Notes: None Listed


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