Bing Crosby Theater - Spokane, WA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 47° 39.428 W 117° 25.517
11T E 468066 N 5278280
Quick Description: Renamed for the fourth time in 1996, this theatre now bears the name of home town boy, Bing Crosby.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 12/18/2013 6:43:40 PM
Waymark Code: WMJQGN
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 2

Long Description:
Beginning in 1915 as the Clemmer Theater, it has, at various times, also been named The Audian, The State, The Met, and The Bing Crosby. At present the Bing Crosby Theater seats 744 people with an additional 12 wheelchair accessible seats. Constructed in the first wave of new theatres built to show moving pictures, this theatre was extant before several more famous theatres, such as Los Angeles' Million Dollar Theater (1918) and Grauman's Chinese Theater (1922). It was built by owner August Paulsen, a Swedish immigrant who struck it rich in Idaho's silver mines, and showman Howard S. Clemmer, operator, in the same year that D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" premièred.

Sold to Universal Studios in 1925, it was again sold in 1929 to a Spokane owner who renamed it The Audian. It remained in business under that name until closing as a movie theatre in 1985. Purchased by the Metropolitan Mortgage Company, it was completely remodelled and reopened in 1988 as a theatre for live performances under the name of Metropolitan Theater of Performing Arts, or The Met. The Metropolitan Mortgage Company went out of business in 2004, selling the theatre to another local businessman, Mitch Silver. In 2006 a citizens' group convinced the owner to change the name to the Bing Crosby Theater to honour local singing legend Bing Crosby.

In February of 2012, the theatre was purchased by GVD Commercial Properties, Inc. Today the theatre offers both movies and live performances, including plays, ballet, stand-up comedy, musicals, concerts and documentaries. The building has been placed on the City of Spokane's Register of Historic Places and on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Theater
In the spirit of the movie palace movement, Paulsen spared no expense. Reviewing the theater at its opening, the Spokesman-Review commented "an atmosphere of richness is over everything.' The theater glowed with 1,600 lights. Murals on the walls were painted by Ivar Petersen, the muralist who had a year earlier painted murals is the Davenport Hotel. The acoustical shell over the stage, though built for function as a concentrator of the organ sounds, gave 'an elaborate architectural effect' and 'is the first of such design to be installed in any theater." (Indeed, 90 years later architectural historians surveying the building as a part of statewide survey of old theaters said they had never seen another one like it). A ventilation system continuously pumped stale air out and fresh air in. In the summer the air ran over cakes of ice to cool the building.

The pipe organ "an integral part of pre-talkie movie theaters" was installed by the W.W. Kimball Company of Chicago. It was a four-manual organ, 'the only one of the kind in a moving picture theater in the Pacific Northwest,' according to the Spokesman-Review article. With hundreds of individual tones issuing from 3,000 pipes filling a space that measured 18 by 40 feet, the newspaper article said, the organ could produce a sound as large as a 40-piece orchestra.

One of the first people to play this organ was Jesse Crawford, later to become the most renowned theater organist of the silent movie era. Crawford, a roaming piano player, "had never played organ before," says an article in the American Theater Organ Society journal, "but when he got a job playing for the Clemmer Theater. . . . which had both piano and seven-rank Estey organ, the die was cast." Crawford was later a feature performer at the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles and the Paramount in New York City.
From the Bing Crosby Theater

Ticket prices vary from $10 for adults for movies to $35 for certain live performances. See the theatre's Events Calendar for prices.

Theater Name: Bing Crosby Theater

Country: USA

901 W Sprague Avenue
Spokane, WA USA

Web Site: [Web Link]

Venue: Other (specify in narrative)

Type of Productions:
plays, ballet, stand-up comedy, concerts, documentary performances, charity events

Restored Building: yes

Date of Construction: 1915

Architect/Designer: E. W. Houghton

Stage Type: Proscenium

Seating Capacity: 756

Special Productions/Events/Festivals:
charity events, various seasonal events and entertainment

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