Seattle Now & Then: The Guild 45th Theatre, 1934

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Two 1933 film titles — the Barbara Stanwyck World War I melodrama “Ever in My Heart” and the disaster film “Deluge” — glow from the neon marquee of H.W. Bruen’s 45th Street Theatre during an evening in 1934. (Museum of History & Industry, Pemco Webster & Stevens Collection)
NOW1: Carol Cruz and her two girls walk beneath the “Scarfface” marquee of the closed, 100-year-old Guild 45th Theatre in April 2021. The other side (not visible here) summoned another pertinent film title, “Mask,” and the flat marquee for the adjacent auditorium briefly read “Citizen Pain.” The prow marquee and sign were removed early this month. (Clay Eals)
NOW2: Pedestrians walk past the marquee, reading “Vax to the Future,” in December 2021. The marquee messages were the creation of Seattle architect and guerrilla artist Todd Lawson, who calls them “good, clean fun.” (Clay Eals)

Published in the Seattle Times online on Jan. 20, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Jan. 23, 2022

Wallingford’s main-street movie theater is ‘ever in our hearts’
By Clay Eals

Along Wallingford’s main street has stood a theater known since 1957 as the Guild 45th. It’s been shuttered since 2017. Early this month, its sign and prow marquee, deemed a safety hazard after a delivery truck hit them, were torn down.

The marquee recently had injected pandemic-era whimsy and inspiration. Starting Dec. 18, 2020, its east face displayed just one word: “Scarfface.” It switched last July 18 to another movie pun: “Vax to the Future.”

The pointed humor masked a dour trend. Virus-related restrictions have sent revenue plummeting at movie theaters nationwide. Insiders note that some demographic groups (such as older women) have stopped going to movies altogether, which in turn affects the types of films in production.

’Twas not always thus. Before video rentals, DVDs and the internet, not to mention TV, neighborhood movie theaters were ubiquitous magnets. For Wallingford, the love affair started a century ago.

What became the Guild 45th at 2115 N. 45th St. was opened in 1921 by W.C. Code as the Paramount Theatre. The 40-by-90-foot building seated 475 and hosted movies and live productions, with occasional political or business gatherings.

It was rechristened the 45th Street Theatre on Sept. 1, 1933, by its new owner, theater veteran H.W. Bruen. With a neon marquee, the art-deco mini-palace became what The Seattle Times called “symbolic in architecture and design of the Century of Progress.”

Two-plus decades later, in December 1956, the fledgling, non-mainstream Seattle Cinema Guild began bookings of classic U.S. and foreign films at the 45th.

THEN2: The French sexploitation film “Companions of the Night,” the initial offering at the newly named Guild 45th Theatre, is advertised in the Oct. 14, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive)

The next year, the remodeled theater acquired its present name and became a so-called art house, screening “the world’s greatest” foreign films, banning anyone under 18 and supplying free coffee and cigarettes between shows. The first offering was a French sexploitation flick, “Companions of the Night.”

The fare had broadened considerably by February 1983 when, four years after joining the Seven Gables chain, the Guild 45th appended an auditorium with 200 steeply raked seats two storefronts to its west. In 1989, it became part of Landmark Theatres.

Citing too many alterations, the city landmarks board voted 6-2 in May 2016 not to protect the Guild 45th, and it closed abruptly 13 months later. Early in 2021, its deteriorating structures, including an ex-restaurant between them, were painted with a colorful mural by Urban ArtWorks to deter random graffiti.

NOW3: The Guild 45th site as it looked the morning of Jan. 5, 2022, after the eastern (left) building’s prow marquee had been removed. (Jean Sherrard)

What will become of the Guild 45th site? One clue is that last November, LA-based owner 2929 Entertainment applied for a demolition permit.

Posters (and YouTube links) for the 1933 feature films “Ever in My Heart” and “Deluge.”

The 1933 films on the marquee in our “Then” photo provide us with additional insight: While the theater certainly is “Ever in My Heart,” no one would be surprised if it were to give way to yet another faceless, modern monolith — like the disaster befalling the characters in “Deluge.”

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to Feliks Banel for his help on this installment.

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column as soon as it’s posted mid-day.

Below are two added photos taken Dec. 18, 2020, by Seattle architect and guerrilla artist Todd Lawson of his clever and uncannily realistic marquee posts, 6 additional current photos by Jean Sherrard of the bedraggled Guild 45th (4 from Jan. 5 and 2 from Jan. 20), a late 1937 photo from the Puget Sound Regional Archives, 2 sets of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board minutes, and 22 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Also, here is a link to Paul Dorpat’s Jan. 31, 1993, column on the Guild 45th Theatre!

And the best “web extra” of all may be this innovative, time-lapse account of the changing Guild 45th prow marquee in 2008, created by none other than Paul Dorpat.

Click the above image to see a 77-second montage of the varied 2008 billings displayed on the prow marquee of the Guild 45th Theatre. This time-lapse depiction was created by our column founder Paul Dorpat as part of his “Wallingford Walks” series. (Ron Edge)
The Guild 45th prow marquee on Dec. 18, 2020, the night Seattle guerrilla artist Todd Lawson posted his punny titles “Scarfface” and “Mask.” (Todd Lawson)
The Guild 45th’s next-door flat marquee on Dec. 18, 2020, the night Seattle guerrilla artist Todd Lawson posted his punny title “Citizen Pain” atop graffiti. (Todd Lawson)
The scene outside the Guild 45th on Jan. 5, 2022, after a crew ripped down the theater’s prow marquee the night before. (Jean Sherrard)
The scene outside the Guild 45th on Jan. 5, 2022, after a crew ripped down the theater’s prow marquee the night before. (Jean Sherrard)
The scene outside the Guild 45th on Jan. 5, 2022, after a crew ripped down the theater’s prow marquee the night before. (Jean Sherrard)
The scene outside the Guild 45th on Jan. 5, 2022, after a crew ripped down the theater’s prow marquee the night before. (Jean Sherrard)
The Guild 45th scene on Jan. 20, with a new touch-up by Urban Artworks. (Jean Sherrard)
The easterly (left) end of the Guild 45th property on Jan. 20, with a new touch-up by Urban Artworks. (Jean Sherrard)
The 45th Street Theatre in late 1937, showing “The Frame-Up” and “Parnell,” the latter starring Clark Gable and Myrna Loy. (Puget Sound Regional Archives)
Click above image to see pdf of minutes of the April 6, 2016, meeting of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, at which the Guild 45th was nominated for landmark designation.
Click above image to see pdf of minutes of the May 18, 2016, meeting of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, at which the Guild 45th was turned down for landmark designation by a vote of 6-2.
March 3, 1921, Seattle Times, p19.
Feb. 4, 1929, Seattle Times, p7.
March 25, 1929, Seattle Times, p14.
March 3, 1932, Seattle Times, p2.
July 19, 1933, Seattle Times, p21.
Aug. 31, 1933, Seattle Times, p11.
Oct. 24, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p3.
Oct. 26, 1933, Seattle Times, p10.
Oct. 27, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
Oct. 29, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p68.
Dec. 29, 1933, Seattle Times, p11.
Nov. 1, 1934, Seattle Times, p18.
April 27, 1934, Seattle Times, p18.
April 26, 1936, Seattle Times, p33.
Nov. 19, 1939, Seattle Times, p15.
Feb. 28, 1943, Seattle Times, p28.
March 3, 1954, Seattle Times, p14.
Dec. 13, 1956, Seattle Times, p48.
Oct. 8, 1957, Seattle Times, p28.
Oct. 9, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
Oct. 9, 1957, Seattle Times, p47.
Feb. 16, 1983, Seattle Times, p34.

 

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Guild 45th Theatre, 1934”

  1. I remember the sign in the ticket window:
    “Park thee not in the Royal Fork lot!”

    I saw The Stunt Man there at least a couple times (didn’t we all?), and probably more than that.

    Eventually I learned that if I was seeing something in the old theater to bring a cushion for the seat.

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