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Motion picture theaters from the silent era.
Copyright © 1999-2014 by Carl Bennett and the Silent Era Company.
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Seattle Theatre  
Address 911 Pine Street
Opening Night Seating Capacity Less than 4000
Original Theater Owner The Publix Loew Corporation
Original Theater Architect Rapp & Rapp, under supervision of B. Marcus Priteca
Years of Operation Opened 1 March 1928
Operated as Seattle Theatre: 1928-1930 to present day
Type of Musical Accompaniment Wurlitzer theater pipe organ and orchestra
Current Status Operating as a live performance venue

The Seattle Theatre was a first-run house. The opening night feature was the Paramount comedy Feel My Pulse (1928) with Bebe Daniels and William Powell. The theater’s presentations were a combination of motion pictures and vaudeville. The house orchestra was led by Jules Buffano. Organists Ron and Don performed at the Seattle Theatre in December 1929.

Showing 1-5 December 1929, The Taming of the Shrew (1929); 6 December 1929, Glorifying the American Girl (1929).

The theater’s name was changed by Publix Loew to The Paramount Theatre in 1930. The Paramount closed briefly during the Depression in July 1931, only to reopen in October 1932, at which time Gaylord Carter was hired as chief house organist. Circa 1935-1937, the theater was purchased by Fox Evergreen Corporation. In 1956, Fox Evergreen leased the theater to the Stanley Warner Cinerama Corporation, which installed the wide, curved Cinerama screen and removed 1600 seats on the main floor to build the required three-projector booth, and began presenting Cinerama films in 1 September 1956. After a short flurry of public interest, Cinerama presentations were terminated by January 1958.

While not officially closed, the theater was dark for long stretches during the 1960s, running second-run features. The theater was purchased in 1971 by The Clise Corporation, who in turn leased the venue to Pine Street, Incorporated, a promotor of touring rock concerts. The declining theater was put on the National Registry of Historic Places on 9 October 1974. Management was changed to West Coast Theatres, Incorporated, in 1976. The venue again changed hands in 1981, and the theater’s stewardship was transferred to Volotin Investment Company for a mere $1.4 million. Owners Norman Volotin and Eulysses Lewis financed cosmetic refurbishments, which included paint, reupholstered seating, sound system improvements, new carpeting, and preliminary repairs to the long-dormant pipe organ, and reopened the theater on 11 October 1981, featuring touring Broadway roadshows and more rock tours. In late 1987, the Volotin Investment Company filed for bankruptcy and sought a buyer of the property, ultimately taking a minority position to WLS Theatre Group in the new Paramount Theatre Partners entity in early October 1990. Still losing money, the theater was rumored to be pending destruction in 1992.

After establishing in 1992 the nonprofit organization, Seattle Landmark Association, whose purpose was top save the historic venue, former Microsoft executive Ida Cole eventually privately purchased the theater in February 1993 for a debt assumption of $6.5 million. A combination of public fundraising and private loans financed a major renovation of the theater, which commenced on 14 June 1994 and included the expansion of the rear of theater to yield a larger stage area to accomodate larger touring roadshows and safer and more-efficient equipment transfer, restoration, repainting and new gold-leaf for the interior’s original plaster decorations, state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, a pneumatic orchestra pit, freight elevators, and new air-conditioning and heating systems. After $30 million in total restoration and upgrades, the theater reopened on 16 March 1995 with the touring company presentation of Miss Saigon. In 1997, $5 million of further upgrades to the venue were undertaken, which included a state-of-the-art convertable main floor (which converts from a sloped theater seatting arragement to a flat dinner theatre/dance floor arrangement) with new seating. In the 1990s, the Seattle Landmark Association became the Seattle Theatre Group, which also began operation of the Moore Theatre.

On 20 December 2002, ownership of the theater was transferred from Ida Cole and the Paramount Defined Limited Partnership to the Seattle Theatre Group. The Puget Sound Theatre Organ Society has assisted in the restoration of the original Wurlitzer pipe organ installed in 1928, which is utilized today for screenings of silent era films and pipe organ concerts.

References: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1 December 1929, p. 6e; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2 December 1929, p. 13 : with additional information edited from material by Nena Peltin (provided by Ken Potts).

 

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