There’ll be a second act for the historic Malco Theatre on Hot Springs’ Central Avenue, thanks to master illusionist Maxwell Blade, who will reopen the renovated playhouse in November.
By Sara Dacus
Blade, who will stage his magic, comedy and music show at the venue, will join a long line of performers who have entertained on this span since the late 1800’s. The site has been home to several buildings and many vaudeville shows, silent movies and traveling theater companies. The current theater opened in 1935.
The Malco was most recently home to the Hot Springs Film Festival. Blade shared the space with them from 1996-2008 until the festival decided they wanted sole possession of the theater.
“This summer, I did 118 shows in 93 days. We performed two or three shows a day, seven days a week,”
Blade did not want to leave, but he embraced a smaller, more intimate theater of 112 seats down the street at 121 Central Ave. While this stage offers advantages, the schedule has been grueling.
“This summer, I did 118 shows in 93 days. We performed two or three shows a day, seven days a week,” Blade said. “Next summer in the Malco, we will perform possibly six days a week. I’ll have a day or two off. I’m not sure I’ll know what to do.”
Blade took possession of the Malco Theater, which will seat almost 400 people, in August 2016 and quickly dove into major renovations. The top-to-bottom overhaul includes a new roof, heat and air systems, electrical, sound, light, seating, concession areas and carpeting. Additional restrooms were added. The original neon was restored, and a digital marquee was added.
“I have always loved the Malco. It is one of my favorite theaters in the world, and I’ve performed in a lot of theaters,” Blade said. “We kept the aesthetics and the original art deco items like the front counters and the brass pyramids above the concession area. I was there daily and oversaw the entire project from start to finish, which took a year and a lot of money.”
The renovated theater will be a performing arts venue for more than Blade’s show.
“Over the next twelve months we will host dance troupes, rock stars who were big back in the 1980’s, country stars and comedy nights,” Blade said. “We have a wide range of entertainment coming to Hot Springs. “
Blade said the progress in downtown Hot Springs prompted him to take possession of the Malco.
“I knew going to the Malco was a good move.”
“I’ve been in town for 20 years now. The progress, new attractions and development in downtown Hot Springs over the past three years is by far the most I have ever witnessed,” Blade said. “I knew going to the Malco was a good move.”
Blade’s new show will open early November.
“The new show will be the most amazing show I have ever produced,” Blade said. “My stage has expanded from 16×20 feet to a 65×30 foot stage. We will perform some large-scale illusions, some of which I am picking up in Las Vegas next week. We will perform some of the same smaller illusions that I utilize in my show now but upgrade them. It’s going to be a brand-new show. I am reinventing myself along with bringing the Malco back to life.”