Palm Springs resident David Lee — a co-creator of the Emmy-winning 1993-2004 NBC comedy “Frasier” — has donated $5 million to the restoration of the city’s downtown Plaza Theatre, officials announced Wednesday.
Former City Councilman J.R. Roberts held a news conference Wednesday to announce the gift, which is roughly half of the funds needed to completely restore the theater. The entire project is estimated to cost between $10 million and $12 million. Lee donated $3 million up front and will donate an additional $2 million through matching funds to encourage additional contributions to the restoration effort, according to officials.
“I am humbled and deeply touched by David’s incredible act of kindness and civic responsibility,” Roberts said. “A long-time philanthropist who has supported many other charities in our valley, his significant donation to this important project will allow us to immediately start on the necessary renovation process and will help us begin to achieve our goal of returning this beautiful building back to its former glory.
“We could not have done this without his generous help. A fully restored and operating Plaza Theatre will be a huge boost for Palm Springs economically and culturally and that is our focus.”
The theater, which opened in 1936, was the location for film premieres, national radio broadcasts, the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies until it closed in 2014.
The building lay in disrepair until Palm Springs began a restoration campaign in 2019. Fundraising was in its early stages when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing activity to cease, according to officials.
A detailed plan and timeline will now be created using the funds from Lee’s donation.
The current plan calls for installing 670 new seats, significant infrastructure repairs, installation of new theatrical equipment and structural improvements to ensure the building meets current fire prevention and Americans with Disabilities Act mandates, according to officials.
“I strongly believe in the preservation of historic American theatres,” Lee said. “I’ve been impressed with the planning that has already gone into the admirable restoration project for the Plaza Theatre and saw an opportunity for me to assist in this impressive campaign. I hope that my donation will spark interest in others who feel as strongly as I do about preserving our city’s past and creating a quality entertainment space for future generations.”
More information about the Plaza Theatre restoration effort is available at savetheplazatheatreps.com.