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Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board approves restoration plans for Plaza Theatre

The return of the iconic Palm Springs Plaza Theatre continues to move forward.

Earlier this week, renovation and restoration plans for the historic theater were approved by the Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) of the City of Palm Springs.

Renders of the newly renovated Plaza Theatre

Work on the renovation project is expected to start in early summer 2023. It's projected to open in the summer of 2024.

Watch an in-depth interview with J.R. Roberts, president of the Palm Springs Plaza Theatre Foundation, TONIGHT at 4:00 p.m. to get the latest on the renovation project.

"The renovation/restoration plans will allow the Plaza Theatre to better serve the community by increasing its ability to host many kinds of events/productions. After it is updated and restored, the Plaza Theatre will provide an exciting venue in downtown Palm Springs for live performances, film premieres, community and educational events, films, and much more," reads a new release by the Palm Springs Plaza Theatre Foundation.

The renovation of the Plaza Theatre will provide needed updates to the building’s infrastructure and modernize it to meet current health and safety standards while staying true to its celebrated historic past.

Officials said the theatre’s original exterior appearance will be maintained but new glass doors will be placed in the existing arches. This will substantially enlarge the lobby by incorporating the area currently under cover but currently outside of the main doors.

"By enclosing this space, the stairs to the balcony will finally be enclosed and air conditioned. A new fully integrated sound system will be installed to bring life to live performances and reduce costs of renting sound equipment for events," the foundation wrote.

Additional Changes:

  • The building’s HVAC system will be replaced with a new system that is energy-efficient and quieter than the existing system.
  • Lighting fixtures will be restored or recreated from the original 1930s plans to provide better illumination.
  • The apron (or ‘thrust’) of the stage will be expanded to provide a bigger performance area.
  • To bring the theatre up to current standards, the dressing rooms will be renovated with improved restrooms and related facilities.
  • A reconfigured floor plan will ensure every seat in the house has optimal sight lines, adding more wheelchair-accessible seating
  • an ADA compliant dressing room and restroom will be added adjacent to the stage.

"The Plaza Theatre is an excellent example of the 'atmospheric style' of design that was popular in the late 1920s and early 30s when the theatre was originally constructed," the foundation wrote.

Atmospheric theatres were designed and decorated to evoke the feeling of being outdoors through the use of projectors, architectural elements, and ornamentation. The Plaza Theatre’s original auditorium design resembled a Spanish courtyard under a nighttime sky.

In preparation of the restoration, paint samples were taken and examined to determine the theatre’s original color palate, and the original blueprints and historic photos were consulted to confirm which elements were original and which had been added over the years.

The new plan includes restoration of the atmospheric walls and proscenium arch, reinstalling new ceiling “star field” lights, installing new seats, and adding new carpet in the aisles and lobby.

“This is a major milestone on our way to completing this project. We are working with experts to uncover the theatre’s original color palate and materials, and this has guided our design process. In addition to restoring the building, we’re delivering on the promise to increase accessibility and balance historic preservation with state-of-the-art technology. I am confident that the completed Plaza Theatre will be spectacular in every way,” said J.R. Roberts, President of the Foundation.

The Plaza Theater Foundation has raised $13.5M towards their goal of $16M. They have launched “The Next Act” fundraising campaign to raise the remaining funds by this summer.

There are many ways in which the public may play a significant role in the Plaza Theatre restoration, including becoming a Founder, securing a Naming Opportunity for seats or other areas of the building, or making a general donation. For more information visit 

The Palm Springs Plaza Theatre Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and contributions are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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