By James Day
Ah, the Palace. You just can’t keep her down. Depression (remember, films were first shown at the site in 1909 and the theater was rebuilt in 1936 after being destroyed in 1935 by fire). Another fire in 2012. A pandemic. A closure in January.
And now, it’s back. Property owner Marjorie Eng has announced the sale of the Palace and its nearby rental properties to Thomas and Erika Baham of Sweet Home. The Bahams own the two-screen Rio complex in adjacent Linn County, nurturing it through nearly a decade of renovations as well as the same pandemic that nearly destroyed going out to the movies.
“Silverton will enjoy the opportunity of having a local, seasoned theater professional as a new owner,” Eng told Our Town. “Having a movie theater in Silverton has always been a top priority. Huge effort was given to find an owner that would cherish and restore the grandeur of the original Silverton Palace Theatre. We are excited to welcome the new owners who will focus on modernization and sanitation while maintaining the charm of a vintage theater experience.”
The Bahams are planning Amercans With Disabilities Act (ADA) work as well as interior renovations that will end the clog of patrons, concessions purchasers and restroom visitors near the front door.
“We’re going to try to create a better traffic flow,” Erika Baham said. “There was just nowhere to go with that space.”
Erika will continue to work at her accounting firm, while Thomas was laid off from an IT firm – just in time to take over renovations of the Palace. He said working full-time while getting the Palace up and running while supervising the Rio would have been too much. So the layoff represented good timing.
“We’ve got a good corps of employees at the Rio,” Thomas said.
“We’ve got it to a comfortable place,” Erika added. “We’re not just maintaining there. We don’t want people to think we are abandoning Sweet Home.”
The Bahams plan mainly first-run movies at the Palace. It’s the same approach they have used at the Rio, but with a bit of a local twist.
“We had to learn what Sweet Home liked,” Erika said, “and we argued with our booker all the time. And we have to learn what this town is like, too, and try to find that balance.”
The conversation with the Bahams and Eng took place right outside the Palace, with the importance of the theater’s location overwhelmingly apparent.
“Look at this downtown. It’s thriving. I love it,” Thomas said. “The Palace is a beautiful resource. You would never want to change any of that. It would be crazy.”
No re-opening date has been set yet.