(click to enlarge photos)
On the eve of its dedication in late 1911, the Society Theatre at the northwest corner of Broadway and John Street was anticipated in The Seattle Times as “the most pretentious” of any of the neighborhood theatres then popping up on greater Seattle’s street corners. The Society would have accommodations for “500 people in a structure 35 x 120 feet in dimension … (it) will cost about $6,000 complete and will be finished with ever-modern convenience for its patrons. It will be a one-story building of frame and brick with an ornamental front, following the Spanish Mission style of architecture and composed of brick and stucco.”
Built with speed, the Society opened its doors to its surely excited neighbors on Friday, December 8, 1911, with “four reels of new films and two song specialists.” For that first night, the Society’s “specialists” would “consist of a male duet and a song by a young woman soloist. There will be no attempt at vaudeville, it is said.” Most likely “it” was the Society’s manager, George W. Ring, who did the saying. Up from Portland, Ring brought with him “a large expansive smile and several years experience in the moving picture game.” Managing neighborhood theatres included promoting neighborhood values, such as chumminess and convenience. One of
the Society’s “modern conveniences” almost assured that there would be no delays for re-threading the projector. From the start, the Society had two, and both were Powers No. 6 moving picture machines. On opening night the two Powers moved pronto from “Old Billy,” a “Selig film, dealing with the comic adventures of an old fire horse belonging to a fiddler,” to “An Aeroplane Elopement, a Vitagraph comedy-drama.” Two “scenic films and two biograph comedies” and the specialists’ singing completed the inaugural bill.
Also in 1911, as a sign of the times, the Alhambra, one of downtown Seattle’s big stock and vaudeville theatre venues, converted to showing motion pictures exclusively. In the same year the Pantages Theatre opened as a terra cotta-clad palace for presenting whatever played well, including vaudeville, stage plays, and film. After many adjustments, in 1966 the Pantages (later renamed the Palomar) wound up as a parking garage – the big one at the northeast corner
of University and Third Avenue. Up on the Hill, the Society changed its name to the Broadway in the early 1920s and continued to show films at its busy intersection until the winter of 1990. Rite Aid Pharmacy, its next-door neighbor to the north on Broadway, took over its place by expanding into the corner, while keeping the “BROADWAY” part of the theatre’s vibrant neon marquee for promoting flu shots and such.
Anything to add, kids? Yes Jean, and most of them from or near the neighborhood.