Take me to the Show!
Spokane's Historic Theaters
The Bing Crosby Theater
Completed in 1915, the Clemmer Theatre; as it was first known, was not only the first large-scale movie theater in Spokane, but also among the first in the Western United States, predating well known theaters such as Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles by nearly a decade.
The Clemmer was at the forefront of a generation of glamorous "movie palaces" built for the silent movie era, and even featured a large pipe organ that was played live during screenings to add music to the otherwise silent films.
Also used for live performances, several well-known acts got their start at the Clemmer including Spokane native Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby, who performed his last Spokane show with his band The Musicaladers before heading to Hollywood in the mid-1920s.
After changing ownership several times in the 1930s, the Clemmer was renamed the State Theater and operated as a cinema for over 50 years, finally closing in 1985. After a renovation, it reopened in 1988 as the Metropolitan Theater of Performing Arts, used for live performances and to screen films, such as during the annual Spokane International Film Festival.
In 2006, The Met was renamed in honor of Spokane's own favorite son and hollywood mega-star, Bing Crosby, who had gotten his start at the original Clemmer Theatre some eighty years before. The newly christened Bing Crosby Theater continues to be a major regional venue for plays, concerts, and independent films.
The Bing is located in the downtown Entertainment District at 901 West Sprague Avenue in Spokane.
The Fox Theater
Situated at the heart of downtown Spokane's Entertainment District, the Fox Theater is an integral part of the region's performing arts scene and an important piece of local history.
When it opened in 1931, the Fox was a marvel of architectural and technological modernity. The sleek, sparingly adorned exterior and ornate interior ushered Spokane into the Art Deco movement, the legacy of which is still visible in many downtown buildings, including City Hall. The Fox was also the first air conditioned building in Spokane, and its projection and sound systems were at the cutting edge of the time.
Built during the era of theaters constructed by the film studios themselves, the Fox Theater was funded by Fox Film Corporation to the tune of $1 million, a colossal sum for the time. The grand opening was a huge affair, with over 30,000 people filling the streets around the theater. Present for the event were several well-known celebrities including Will Rogers, the celebrated actor, humorist, and social commentator.
With the proliferation of smaller movie theaters in Spokane by the 1970s and the emergence of the multiplexes in later years, the Fox suffered a period of decline and decay. It screened it's last film in 2000, and would remain closed for most of the next decade.
In response to plans to demolish the theater to build a parking facility, the Spokane Symphony purchased the property and embarked on an ambitious campaign to "Save the Fox". A $31 million restoration project followed, and the theater was reopened as a performing arts venue in November of 2007.
In honor of the father of the project's largest donor, the theater was renamed the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox and has established itself as the premier concert hall in the area. The theater is located at 1001 West Sprague Avenue, in downtown Spokane.
The Garland Movie Theater
Opening in November of 1945 to great fanfare, the Garland was hailed as the premier movie theater in the West, surpassing its contemporaries in Seattle, San Francisco, and even Hollywood itself. It was Spokane's first modern cinema house, featuring what were then novelties such as a snack bar, gift shop, and even germicidal lamps designed to purify the air. The Garland had its heyday during the latter part of the Golden Age of Hollywood, remaining Spokane's most popular and glamorous theater into the early 1960s.
The changing trends of movie viewership in the 1960s and 70s saw the Garland enter a period of decline and eventually led to its closure in 1986. Reopening in 1988, it was re-branded as a discount theater, mainly screening films no longer playing at the multiplexes but not yet available on home video.
In 1999, ownership of the Garland changed again, taking the theater into an exciting new direction for the 21st century. Extensive renovations have returned the theater to much of its former glory, and moviegoers can enjoy such additions as a swanky cocktail bar, technologically modern sound and picture systems, and a fabulous snack bar designed with the urban foodie in mind.
Ticket prices are much lower than at the shopping mall cinema reflecting the selection of recently out of theater and classic films and the experience is among the most unique one can find in a night at the movies in Spokane.
The building, one of the region's more notable examples of Streamline Moderne architecture, is located at 926 West Garland Avenue, in the emerging and trendy Garland Business District of northwest Spokane.
written by:John Spracklen