This location has been the site of a theatrical venue as far back the 1880's. The original venue to occupy this spot was the small Palace Theatre that served up vaudeville and other type acts until 1882 when the theater was torn down to make way for a Victorian-style Opera House. The Opera House was successful until the onset of World War I, when it had to close down. After the war, it reopened but the Opera House never regained its audiences and it ultimately was closed down and demolished to make way for the second incarnation of the Princess Theater in 1910. Purchased by Frank Head, the Princess served up motion pictures until 1935 when it was heavily damaged by a fire and was torn down again. Yet another theater took its place the same year with the construction of the Malco Theatre. That building still exists on the spot today after undergoing renovations in 1962 and 1995.
Maxwell Blade's Theater Of Magic
In 1995, the Malco was purchased by magician/illusionist Maxwell Blade. Blade and his cast had toured the United States extensively but were looking for a place to settle down. During the renovations, Blade reportedly discovered an old trunk with the name "Jerome Schmitar" inscribed on it and became intrigued. After extensive research, he uncovered that a German magician by that name had performed in the theater in the 1880's. According to a legend, it was at one of his performances that something strange and mysterious happened.
On August 28, 1888, the magician was finishing up his set when he asked a woman named Clara B. Sutherland in the audience to join him on stage. Once there, he covered her with a sheet of red silk and pulled it away seconds later to reveal that she had disappeared. After the applause had quieted, he ordered her to reappear yet nothing happened. He tried again and again, but she would never reappear. What happened to her is still a mystery to this date. On August 15, 1996, Maxwell Blade's Theater of Magic opened and the legend of Ms. Sutherland was forever incorporated into Maxwell Blade's show.
Ghosts of the Theater
An apparition of a woman is said to haunt the basement of the theater today and has been sighted on occasion. Additionally, screams have been heard coming from the empty building and members of the staff have reported seeing objects that move on their own. In early-2008, Maxwell Blade's Theater Of Magic moved out of the Malco and has appeared in other Hot Springs facilities since. The Malco Theatre continues to operate however and hosts the popular Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, as well as multiple other film festivals and theatrical productions throughout the year.