Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Night at the Stanford Theater

Cousin Barbara knew that we sought out restored movie theaters wherever possible on our travels and wanted to show us the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto. We found a parking space about a block from the theater and made our way through heavy foot traffic to the theater.
During November and December, the Stanford offered two classic treasures of film comedy on each double bill: one with the Marx Brothers, the other written and directed by Preston Sturges. That night we saw Sturges' The Great McGinty (1940) and the Marx Brothers in The Cocoanuts (1929).
We entered the spacious lobby and admired the restoration work.

We then purchased a good amount of popcorn and made our way to our seats.

Being early, we had several minutes to take in the details of the neo-classical Greek/Assyrian style architecture.
“For a time in its history it seemed that the Stanford Theatre, Palo Alto’s oldest and grandest movie house, would suffer the unfortunate fate of most single-screen theatres of yesteryear. As cable and color television, VCRs and year-round TV sports lured people to stay home on Friday and Saturday nights--and big screen multiplexes opened within a short freeway drive--the Stanford began to sink ever further down the cinematic food chain, eventually showing second-run Hollywood action flicks while remaining poised on the verge of being eaten up by shops and restaurants.
“But thanks to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the zeal of the billionaire’s son, movie buff David Woodley Packard, the story of the Stanford has a happy ending after all. It just goes to show what a little vision and $8 million can do.

“The Stanford--or New Stanford as it was then known--was built in 1925 for $300,000, replacing its predecessor as part of the Peninsula Theatre Company chain. It was immediately billed in the local papers as 'The pride of the Peninsula…the last word in theatre construction.'
“By the early 1980s, the Stanford was playing movies again, but of a second-run variety. You could see Hollywood blockbusters months after their release. And if you were willing to put up with the Stanford’s peeling paint and rusted seats, you could get in for 50 cents --- a dime less than the price of a film when the theatre first opened nearly six decades earlier.
“But just as it looked as if the Stanford’s days were numbered, a white knight came forth in the person of David Woodley Packard. Although the onetime classics professor had not been interested in film until the age of 35 when a friend took him to see the Wizard of Oz, Packard had since developed a nearly fanatical passion for the fate of old movies. In 1987, he rented out the Stanford for a week to serenade friends with a fortnight of Fred Astaire pictures. The results were phenomenal. More than a 1,000 people lined up each night to see Fred and Ginger dance cheek to cheek. Packard began to flirt with the idea of buying the Stanford and when his old man came by and saw the crowds, the elder Packard gave his assent to the plan.
“David threw himself into the restoration project. Using old photographs and company file notes, he and his crew were able to reconstruct the Stanford’s glory days. Back were the original Greek-Assyrian paintings on the theatre’s 50 foot-high ceiling. Also restored were the handmade stair tiles, seven chandeliers, stage pillars, urns and the theatre’s piece de resistance--the Mighty Wurlitzer organ that ascends and descends into the orchestra pit. Even the theatre’s original snack bar and ticket booth were replicated with complete accuracy. In the end, it took less time (and a lot less money) to build the theatre in the first place than to do the painstaking restoration.
“In the years since, the Stanford has become a place where classics are both shown and saved. Packard has close ties to the UCLA film archive, maintaining his own preservation lab on the UCLA grounds. There he has helped convert—at $10,000 apiece—many films whose only prints were previously at risk on unstable and highly flammable nitrate stock. Such new prints have often premiered at the Stanford. Still, sometimes Packard’s love for the old cinema can impair his sense of what will turn a profit. After all, it’s probably only the die-hard classics fans who are lining up to for tickets to Harold Lloyd film festivals.
“But Packard was correct in predicting that there was a stable audience in town for Hollywood’s Golden Age—and not just among blue-haired set. More people saw the 50th anniversary re-release of Casablanca at the Stanford than anywhere else in the country and over the last decade the theatre has accounted for a remarkable 25 percent of the nationwide attendance of classic films” (

At the end of the second film, we were treated to the sounds of the Mighty Wurlitzer. The musical selections and the sounds of the pipes fit the era of the films and the early years of this beautiful theater.

We left with a feeling of gratitude for the emotional and financial investment of David Woodley Packard to the restoration of both the theater and the films.

Maybe it was the season, but we felt that this theater was a wonderful gift to the community of Palo Alto.

When was the last time you saw a double feature at your local restored movie palace?


eyad ammar said...

شركة نقل عفش بالدمام الشرق الاوسط متحصصه فى نقل عفش واثاث بالدمام ونقل العفش بالخبر كما انها توفر شركة نقل عفش بالجبيل والخبر وشركة نقل عفش بالقطيف والاحساء وجميع خدمات نقل العفش والاثاث بالمنطقة الشرقية بارخص اسعار نقل عفش بالدمام وتقدم ايضا شركة تخزين عفش بالدمام والخبر
نقل عفش بالدمام
شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
شركة نقل اثاث بالخبر
شركة نقل اثاث بالجبيل
شركة نقل عفش بالخبر
شركة نقل عفش بالقطيف
شركة نقل اثاث بالاحساء

eyad ammar said...

شركة نقل عفش الجبيل
شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
شركة نقل اثاث بالجبيل
شركة نقل عفش بالخبر
شركات النقل البري بالدمام
شركات نقل العفش بالدمام
ارقام شركات نقل العفش بالدمام
ارخص شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
شركة تخزين عفش بالدمام

eyad ammar said...

شركة تنظيف خزانات بالمدينة المنورة وشقق بالمدينة المنورة شركة غسيل خزانات ومكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة ونقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة مؤسسة صفوة المدينة
شركة تنظيف خزانات بالمدينة المنورة
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة مؤسسة صفوة المدينة انها الاولى فى مكافحة ورش الحشرات بالمدينة المنورة رش البق رش الصراصير مكافحة النمل الابيض بالمدينة المنورة
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة