Palace Theatre History

    The Palace Theatre has been in Oakley for more than half a century. It's been through many owners, managers, and titles. It was first built by the George Baker Amusement Co. of Kansas City and named the "Center Theatre." Carl Coriell managed the 502 seat theatre. The Grand Opening was August 25, 1949. A free open house was held that day from 1:00-5:00 p.m. They showed 45 minute cartoons, comedies, and sports programs every two hours. The regular movie was played at 7:00p.m. The first movie was "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

Picture of Oakley in 1931    In May of 1951, Mel Sparks was hired by George Baker of Kansas City to become the new manager. Mel then ran the theatre for 16 years until he became the part-time manager in 1967. He managed it until 1976 when he finally sold it to Leroy Heinrich. Heinrich owned it for a year, remodeling it during that time. Johnny Daniels then purchased it in 1977 for $60,000, changing the name to the “Palace Theatre."

    After being remodeled, the Palace had a new cry room with 10 seats and could accommodate 381 moviegoers. At this time there were three other theatres, one on Main Street, called the "Main Street Theatre" and two drive-ins.

    The Palace was closed in 2001, and remained closed until 2003 when members of the community purchased it. The new Board of Directors included Bruce Campbell, Frank Munk, Eric Sperber, Jim Keenan, and Butch Burris. Each year, a new group of seniors will be in the class and take over the theatre management, hopefully keeping the theatre running for years to come. This year’s class consists of Katie Hefner, Taylor VanEaton, Triston Swart, Katelyn Mullen, Nancy Vasquez, Jenna Berkgren, Estin Slack, Shanley Selzer, Jace Ochs, Kameron Gabel, and Taryn Faulkender.

    In November of 2009, the Palace Theatre switched to digital in order to play 3-D movies and continue to offer the community of Oakley a fun-filled movie experience.

If there is anyone else who may have any information about the Palace Theatre, please contact the Palace class.  Thank you!

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