The 1944 film "Cover Girl," starring Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth, caught fire Thursday night about 10 minutes into the film at Stanford Theatre in downtown Palo Alto, forcing evacuation and temporary closure of the 1920s theater.
"We cauld see the flickering light from the flames from the orchestra" area near the front of the theater, audience member Kenneth Allen said of the 7:35 p.m. incident.
The theater, at 221 University Ave., was closed for repairs, primarily from water damage from overhead sprinklers that doused the flames.
Fire Battalion Chief Niles Broussard said no one was injured.
Allen said in an e-mail to the Weekly and some individuals that the film apparently jammed in the projector and caught fire.
"The downtown Stanford Theatre caught fire tonight when the nitrate film jammed in the projector and burst into flames. We along with all other patrons safely evacuated, and it looked like the fire did not spread, but fire trucks were still rolling a half hour after the first alarm," he said.
The subject line of his e-mail was, "It was okay to yell 'Fire' in a crowded theater."
Broussard said the blaze was controlled by the theater's sprinkler system in minutes, and the fire damage was limited to the projector.
But he said the theater sustained between $5,000 and $10,000 in water damage.