Palms Theatre

Ulrich Street and Highway 90,
Sugar Land, TX 77478

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Additional Info

Architects: Ernest L. Shult

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Cole Theatre

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Palms Theatre

The Cole Theatre was built in 1949 in Sugar Land, then the company town for the Imperial Sugar Company. It was operated by Cole Theaters Inc. It was later renamed Palms Theatre. By the mid-1990’s the theatre had been closed and torn down.

Contributed by Bob Machann

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

wbuffington on August 26, 2006 at 10:01 pm

I was 13-years-old the first time I walked into the Palms Theater, in Sugar Land (now spelled Sugarland), Texas, was in 1975. My family and I saw the movie Doc Savage, starring Ron Ely. I saw many movies at the Palms, including the original Star Wars, which played at the Palms in 1977 for almost half of a year.

The Palms Theater had double-sided neon marques, (and Iâ€\m told once had a neon mural of palm trees on the right side of the building, the scraps were later kept in storage), a Deco neon post which stood on top of the building, and had a large flower planter in front of the large plate glass window in the front. Its exterior was painted white and had the same classic styling which most small town theaters of the time period had. The inside lobby featured wood, aluminum and glass, post 1930s Deco styling. It was also one of the only theaters in the Houston area at the time which had a true (standing) womanâ€\s urinal. Inside, the theater had both floor and balcony seating; a large perforated screen (which theater could look through at the audience and observe during a show); a large stage area in front of the screen; large red velvet curtains, which open and shut for each performance; a curved Deco ceiling with recessed (non visible) white neon which illumined the ceiling of airbrushed clouds against a painted blue sky, and the walls on either side of the inside of the theater were painted with murals of south sea islands with palm trees. The paintings were done by a man (with one leg) named Schubert, who painted all the murals at Tercar owned theaters during ownership, and worked for Tercar from 1945 until at least 1989, when the Palms was converted into a duplex Theater. I know, because I spoke with him about the murals, having always admired them. The projection booths, until the 1980 refit, contained to early 1950s, carbon arc 35mm film projectors.

I worked at the Palms Theater from August 1976 until about 1979. D.P. Morton was the manager of the Palms, and his wife Winnie, the Box Office attendant, both ran the theater until 1979, when they retired. I was 14 years old when Mr. Morton hired me for the concessions stand (for minimum wage, which was a whopping $1.25 per hour!), and I later worked as doorman (and for a short time as a projectionist, but couldnâ€\t stand the seclusion, and the nightmarish environment of a post WWII projection boothâ€"hey, I was 15-years-old). Sadly, the Mortons have both passed on but they will always have a special place in my heart. I still keep in contact with many friends who also worked at the Palms during that time.

During my time there, I met my high school sweetheart through a friend who worked at the Palms, and we’ve been happily married since June of 1981. I retired from the Air Force after 22 years and now work as a civil service 3D modeler and animator working for the US Navy. If any of you out there, at any time in the past 60+ years, worked at, or have pictures of the Palms Theater, I am currently looking for photographs in order to produce a 3D restoration. I would also be interested in being a part of any historic project to purchase the land and rebuild the Palms Theater in its original position as a historical monument and or cultural center for the city of Sugarland, Texas. If anyone has any information about the Palms, the Mortons, or pictures the Palms Theater, please post them here or contact me at: Thanks!

jjr1971 on November 1, 2007 at 11:59 pm

I was lucky to see one of the Indiana Jones flicks in the mid-1980s there shortly before this grand old cinema closed down. I was just a kid, so I don’t remember much other than it had an upstairs balcony, which I’d never experienced before. I’m sorry it went away…at least we still have River Oaks Theater in Houston, but that’s quite a drive from Sugar Land. Palms Theater was within reasonable walking distance of where I live. Rumors abound about what is to be done with the now-defunct Imperial Sugar Refinery…I’d love nothing more than to see the Palms Theater lovingly restored to its former glory (that vacant lot still irks me every time I drive by it now). I’m glad I at least got to see one movie there before it closed its doors.

franniem on January 6, 2008 at 8:16 pm

They are going to be replicating the Palms Theater in Sugar Land. Not in its' original location, but nearby I’m told. The refinery will also be refurbished and used for other purposes. Very exciting. At least they aren’t demolishing it like they did to the Palms.

kathy2trips on January 7, 2008 at 10:10 am

Franniem: From where have you gotten your information? Who is behind this effort?

franniem on January 9, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Kayzer: I learned this information from my parents who are friends with Bruce Kelly of Sugar Land, one of the persons researching and acquiring information about old Sugar Land to give to the developers who are heading up this project. There was also a local news broadcast about it. I believe during the summer or just before. Everything is still in the developmental stage.

tomekelley on June 1, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Who is Bruce Kelly? How can I contact him? I would love to be involved in this project.

franniem on June 2, 2008 at 10:01 am

Mr. Kelley,

Bruce is just someone from Sugar Land who is involved in preserving its history. He has been going to all the older residents who have lived there and getting info on old Sugar Land. He and his family have just always been very involved in and around Sugar Land. I am told that he would appreciate any input. This is his email address:

sepiatone on July 1, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Here’s a nighttime shot of the Palms from 1984.

View link

djrea77 on July 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm

The Palms Theatre was the birthplace of many special memories for me and my children. In the 1970s, one of our favorite summer pasttimes was to go to the Palms and chomp down on hot dogs, popcorn, and candy as we sat back and watched our favorite flicks. We still talk about going back and forth between the two screens to watch Star Wars on one screen and Grease on the other. Call it crazy, but we saw Stars Wars 7 ½ times and Grease 6 times—all at the Palms! I still get teary eyed each time I pass by and see the vacant lot; but, at the same time, I am filled with warm thoughts of the happy times shared by a mom and her children.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 7, 2012 at 10:11 pm

The Palms Theatre was built in 1949, according to this weblog post from The Old Sugar Land Club House. It includes a photo of the construction. Additional photos can be seen at this post from the same weblog.

A list of theaters designed by architect Ernest L. Shult, published in the 1950 edition of The Theatre Catalog also says the Palms was a 1949 project.

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