West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It was a night 28 years in the making.
From the time the Admiral Theater was shuttered in 1989 – then saved – its future as a moviehouse was never fully guaranteed, until now, with its transformation to a first-run fourplex, celebrated last night. The gala included a ribboncutting with a “ribbon” made of film (across the center of the photo), presided over by Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals (below left), whose involvement dates back to leading the campaign to save it:
Eals proclaimed that everyone there last night was “standing in history.” The ribboncutting was the kickoff to a night in which four movies, from The Admiral’s “Four Eras,” were screened – as detailed here, from silent movies celebrating the building’s early history as The Portola, through a brand-new (and very popular) film.
This happened six months after the restoration work at the circa-1942 moviehouse started in earnest, more than a quarter century after it was designated a city landmark as part of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society campaign to save it. The company that owned it in the late ’80s abruptly decided to close it in 1989, and said the following year that it might not ever be a moviehouse again.
That was proven wrong after local entrepreneur Marc Gartin bought it in 1992. (He owns it to this day.) He was thanked last night by Sol Baron from Faraway Entertainment, which runs the moviehouse business and collaborated on the renovation plan, which was officially announced two years ago:
(WSB photo, February 2015)
The ceremony is over but the “Four Screens, Four Eras” movies are showing one more time each this evening, and you still have time to get to the Admiral Theater (2343 California SW) to enjoy one of them if you’re not there already. We’ll have photos and video from the festivities later, but above – that’s Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals with one of the theater’s historic mural appliques, subject of an upcoming restoration campaign – if you go to one of the special screenings tonight, you’ll hear about that too.
Next showtimes tonight, from the full preview on the SWSHS website:
ERA ONE, the Portola Theater’s opening in 1919: A slate of classic silent films: Charlie Chaplin’s war parody “Shoulder Arms” (1918), plus three shorts, Harold Lloyd’s “The Marathon” (1919) and Buster Keaton’s “One Week” (1920) and “Cops” (1922). “Shoulder Arms” played the Portola Theater in August 1927. Second showtime 8:40 pm
ERA TWO, the Admiral Theater’s opening on Jan. 22, 1942: The Humphrey Bogart detective story “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), which played the Admiral Theater six weeks after it opened in 1942. Second showtime 8:50 pm
ERA THREE, the Admiral’s twinning in spring 1973: The nostalgic comedy “American Graffiti” (1973), which played the Admiral Theater in August 1974. Second showtime 9 pm
ERA FOUR, the renovation of the Admiral to four screens in fall 2016: The new Disney fantasy “Beauty and the Beast” (2017), which is slated to open at the Admiral on the previous Friday, March 17. Second showtime 9:10 pm
More to come in report #2!
Maybe you’ve already been to the movies at the remodeled-into-a-fourplex Admiral Theater. Even if you haven’t, it’s finally time to officially celebrate the reinvention of West Seattle’s only moviehouse. Just announced by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society:
Just two years shy of 100 years old, the Historic Admiral Theater will celebrate its recent $1.7 million renovation with a unique evening saluting four key periods in the history of the art-deco, nautical-themed moviehouse.
The event on the evening of Wednesday, March 22, is called “The Ship Sails Again: Four Screens, Four Eras.” Launching the event will be an indoor ribbon-cutting (using film instead of ribbon!). Also, the long-dormant outdoor ticket booth will come alive with public office-holders and volunteers distributing keepsake postcards commemorating the evening.
On the bill for this special evening will be four programs, each representing a turning point in the theater’s history and featuring films that have played the Admiral or its predecessor, the Portola Theater (which was in the building that is the current theater’s lobby):
* ERA ONE, the Portola Theater’s opening in 1919: A slate of classic silent films: Charlie Chaplin’s war parody “Shoulder Arms” (1918):
Plus three shorts, Harold Lloyd’s “The Marathon” (1919) and Buster Keaton’s “One Week” (1920) and “Cops” (1922). “Shoulder Arms” played the Portola Theater in August 1927. Showtimes: 6:50 and 8:40 p.m.
* ERA TWO, the Admiral Theater’s opening on Jan. 22, 1942: The Humphrey Bogart detective story “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), which played the Admiral Theater six weeks after it opened in 1942.
Showtimes: 6:30 and 8:50 p.m.
* ERA THREE, the Admiral’s twinning in spring 1973: The nostalgic comedy “American Graffiti” (1973), which played the Admiral Theater in August 1974.
Showtimes: 6:40 and 9 p.m.
* ERA FOUR, the renovation of the Admiral to four screens in fall 2016: The new Disney fantasy “Beauty and the Beast” (2017), which is slated to open at the Admiral on the previous Friday, March 17.
Showtimes: 6:20 and 9:10 p.m.
Tickets for each program will be regular prices: $11.50 for adults, $9.50 for children (under 13) and seniors (60+) and $10.50 military. Those purchasing a pair of tickets for an early-evening show and late-evening show will receive a complimentary bag of the Admiral’s famous popcorn.
Advance ticket purchases are encouraged because of the expected crowds that evening. Advance tickets can be purchased at the theater, 2343 California Ave. SW, or online here (click “Buy Tickets Online” in upper right corner).
The ribbon/film-cutting ceremony will take place at about 5:30 p.m. on the stairs inside the theater lobby. Participating in the ceremony will be a pair of public officials and West Seattle residents:
* Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, of District 1 (West Seattle and South Park), marking the city’s role in the 1989 landmarking of the Historic Admiral Theater, resulting from a grassroots campaign led by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.
* King County Council Chair Joe McDermott, of District 8 (West Seattle, Vashon Island and parts of downtown), who championed the 4Culture “Building for Culture” grant of $95,000 that assisted in the renovation of the Historic Admiral Theater in 2016.
Also participating in the ceremony will be representatives of Far Away Entertainment, which operates the Historic Admiral Theater, and the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.
Other participants will include West Seattle residents Maryanne Tagney and David Jones, winners of a Historic Admiral Theater package at the historical society’s 2016 Champagne Gala Brunch.
The outdoor ticket booth will be open for the distribution of keepsake postcards at 5 p.m. Working the booth in shifts will be Herbold, McDermott, and volunteers from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.
Before each screening that evening, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society will speak briefly about plans to restore the 1942 underwater murals that are now exposed on the interior walls of the outside walls of the theater. In the lobby, the historical society also will have an informational booth about the mural restoration.
The Historic Admiral Theater: a timeline
* 1919: The Portola Theater (the same building as the current Admiral Theater lobby) opens.
* Jan. 22, 1942: The Admiral Theater opens.
* Spring 1973: The main auditorium is cut in two, and the moviehouse becomes known as the Admiral Twin Theater.
* Jan. 29, 1989: The Southwest Seattle Historical Society pickets in front of the Admiral on closing night and launches a city landmark campaign for the moviehouse.
* July 1989: The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designates the Admiral a city landmark.
* April 2, 1992: The Admiral reopens after a closure of more than three years.
* Fall 2016: The Historic Admiral Theater undergoes $1.7 million renovation and expansion to four screens while retaining all landmarked historical features, including underwater appliqué murals exposed for the first time in more than four decades.
* March 22, 2017: “The Ship Sails Again: Four Screens, Four Eras” grand reopening celebration.
Though this is a “grand reopening” celebration, The Admiral has stayed open through the remodeling work, and is currently showing (corrected lineup) “Hidden Figures,” “Logan,” “Lion,” and “Kong” in both 2D and 3D.
If you’re hoping to see “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” at West Seattle’s newly renovated Admiral Theater, here’s an update:
Though the official start date is Friday, The Admiral does have Thursday night shows, and manager Dinah Brein wants you to know: “Tickets will NOT be available online or at the theater until this Thursday [tomorrow]. Box office opens at 2 PM. You can buy tickets for either Thursday’s 2D 7 PM show or the 3D 9:40 at that time. ‘Rogue One’ will be showing 4 times a day starting Friday. You can come to the box office at noon starting Friday and buy tickets for any show ON THAT DAY. Remember, our theater is smaller now; only 225 seats so you will want to come early. Lines will be forming outside.”
When we reported last week on the debut of the first of four new auditoriums at West Seattle’s only moviehouse, the city-landmark Admiral Theater, management was hoping to have the second one open by Thanksgiving. So we checked – and indeed, it is open. If you’re going there today/tonight or for the rest of the holiday weekend, you have three movie options, because the theater confirms that both halves of its newly twinned Pier 1 are open, as is Pier 2, where twinning work starts next week. The second new auditorium is showing “Doctor Strange” plus an added early-evening showing of “Moana.”
According to this week’s e-mail newsletter, The Admiral hopes to have the rest of the work done by “mid-December in time for the ‘Star Wars’ (Rogue One) premiere on 12/16.” Also, if you haven’t been lately: “Restrooms have already been renovated as has repainting of the lobby and enhancement of our concessions area. Our goal has been to remain open during construction with crews beginning early each day and finishing their work by the time afternoon movies begin. We recognize that we are still somewhat of an active construction site but have been able to offer movies in a quality and professional environment. The entire project will be complete within a matter of weeks and we look forward to welcoming the community with 4 brand new state-of-the-art auditoriums and the most current digital laser projection and sound quality.”
BACKSTORY: The renovation work began two months ago – three months after a key approval from the city Landmarks Board, a year and a half after the theater’s longtime management announced “an agreement in principle” with its owner to allow the renovations, which they had warned in mid-2014 were essential to the historic moviehouse’s survival.
If you’re planning to go to the Admiral Theater tonight, you might be among the first to see a film on a brand-new screen. Via reader tips/questions, and then confirmation with theater management, we learned that the Admiral is debuting the first of its new auditoriums tonight – one of the two it’s been working on for the past few months, as the landmark moviehouse is transformed into a four-screen theater, with stadium seating and other state-of-the-art touches.
We stopped in for photos after confirming with the Admiral that they plan to launch the first new auditorium tonight, with the 6:30 pm showing of “Fantastic Beasts.” This is the one where old “applique murals” were uncovered during renovation work:
With the new auditorium coming online, The Admiral is back to showing two movies at a time (“Doctor Strange” is continuing right now – see the schedule here). We’re told the other new auditorium should be ready sometime next week. Once the two new ones are both in operation, then work can begin on dividing the remaining older one.
One week into the renovation work at the Admiral Theater, here’s the first look inside, courtesy of theater staff and the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. The photos above and below show parts of a mural that had been hidden since the theater was split into two auditoriums decades ago.
See and read more on the SWSHS website. When the work’s all done, the Admiral will have four screens. Right now, it has one – the western auditorium is open while work goes on next door.
(Photo by Jean Sherrard, courtesy Southwest Seattle Historical Society; click here to see full-size version on SWSHS website)
Three and a half months after the “Group Hug” event (photo above) celebrating the historic Admiral Theater‘s impending renovation work, the operators of the landmark moviehouse just got the permit they needed to get going! Here’s the big announcement of what happens next, just in from Jeff Brein of Far Away Entertainment:
With all required city building permits in hand, upgrades, expansion and renovations of the Historic Admiral Theater in West Seattle will begin in earnest on Monday, Sept. 19 with completion expected in November.
Moviegoers will be able to see films at the Admiral during the construction period, according to Jeff Brein, managing partner of Far Away Entertainment, the Bainbridge Island-based group that operates the theater.
“Our principal goal is to keep the theater open during this process, albeit on a limited basis,” Brein said. “Initially, weekday films will be presented in a single theater, with expanded schedules on weekends. As the project progresses and additional auditoriums are readied we expect the number of movie offerings to increase.”
Brein and partner Sol Baron have worked with building owner Marc Gartin for several years to plan a history-based renovation of the iconic 1942 theater, for which the Southwest Seattle Historical Society secured city landmark status 27 years ago. The Gartin family purchased and reopened the theater in 1992 after a three-year closure.
The current two-auditorium footprint will expand to four and will feature stadium seating in two larger auditoriums. Additional enhancements will include new, state-of-the-art digital laser projection systems, a 3D auditorium, Dolby Digital sound systems, new seating with beverage cup holders, and upgraded carpeting, concessions area and restrooms.
“Additionally,” Brein said, “we have been working with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society and plan to reveal and eventually restore the original, interior auditorium murals featuring underwater appliqués that have been hidden since the theater was twinned in 1973. We also have been working together on other improvements, including repainting of the lobby and preservation of its 1942 mural of Captain George Vancouver and other artwork. Other less apparent enhancements will include a revised traffic flow pattern for ticket sales and more open space in the lobby, improved theater floor lighting and an upgrade of the theater’s marquee.”
The Admiral Theater project team includes Swinterton Builders, CDA Architecture, and the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, as well as the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, which approved the renovation in June. Credit also goes to King County Council member Joe McDermott and King County Executive Dow Constantine, both West Seattle residents, for helping secure a $95,000 “Saving Landmarks” grant from 4Culture last November.
The Southwest Seattle Historical Society eagerly anticipates the renovation, said Clay Eals, executive director. “We are thrilled that these many improvements will allow the Admiral Theater to thrive well into the future and can occur without harming – and actually exposing and showcasing more of – the building’s historic features,” Eals said.
“We salute Far Away Entertainment and the Gartin family ownership for their perseverance and heart,” he said.
“This renovation project and the existence of the theater itself wouldn’t be possible without the grassroots effort that saved it in 1989, and the history of this moviehouse, an art deco masterpiece, is a shining example of how neighbors engaging in the landmark process can add economic vitality to the city while building community pride.”
Our archived coverage of The Admiral is here, including our report on the Landmark Board’s approval of the work back in June, and the February 2015 announcement of the agreement between the building’s owner and operators that paved the way for this work.
BRINGING BABY TO THE MOVIE! While it’s billed as being for “mommies,” the new Friday morning events at the historic Admiral Theater are really for anyone with a very young baby in tow. The Admiral recently launched 10 am Friday showings described as “first-run matinees for parents, nannies, grandparents and caregivers. The sound will be turned down and you’re welcome to bring a stroller, feed your baby, let your baby fuss, cry or coo, and no one will mind! Please note these movies are our regularly featured movies. Children age five and under are free. Adult tickets are matinee-priced.” The movies are first-run films already on the theater’s schedule, so this week’s movies – tomorrow (August 26th) at 10 am – are “Florence Foster Jenkins” and “War Dogs.”
KOSARA ON THE WAY TO ADMIRAL: Across the street from the theater, you might have noticed the liquor-license posting for Kosara at the former Zatz Bagels, which closed in June 2015 at 2348 California SW – we’ve received more than a few questions about it. We noticed it too and have been trying to get more information; the license application includes a familiar name, Plamen Stoyanov, already a West Seattle restaurateur (Amante, Huddle), but when reached for comment, he told WSB he’s not yet ready to go public with the plan. So all we know is that the license being sought is for a restaurant with beer and wine.
WHITE CRANE WELLNESS MERGES WITH WEST SEATTLE WELLNESS: In South Admiral, White Crane Wellness (3435 California SW) has been acquired by West Seattle Wellness, and remains open for what its new ownership describes as “alternative health care services such as, but not limited to, acupuncture, massage, energy work, physical therapy, counseling, organic skin care, and more.” You’re invited to an open house at White Crane on Saturday, October 1st, 1-4 pm.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At City Hall, the Landmarks Preservation Board has just unanimously approved the Admiral Theater‘s renovation plans – a key step toward getting the work done in the months ahead.
The board’s approval is necessary because much of the historic moviehouse is protected by the city ordinance designating it a landmark – including its site, exterior, lobby (but not its restrooms or carpet), and the east and west walls with historic mural art.
FarAway Entertainment (the theater operator, not building owner)’s Sol Baron presented the plan, after first describing the Admiral’s ship-evocative design. “What we’re proposing is limited exterior improvements, updating our bathrooms – right now they probably haven’t been updated in decades – make them handicapped-accessible … Main thing we’re doing from our business perspective is converting the 2-screen auditoriums to 4 screens. A corridor that’s actually a tunnel is how we’re going to access them … (they’ll have) stadium seating, it’s going to be a pretty classy place – around 220 seats in 2 auditoriums, the other two will be significantly smaller.”
Baron said the exterior work will be limited, but they’ll be “replacing water-damaged sections of the roof … replacing emergency exit doors … inside, the doors will be painted the same colors …. lobby doors will be painted the same color … we’re not making any chnages in the color or look.” Also some improvements are planned to deal with stormwater issues, including a downspout, and a steel canopy over two alley-side stairwells that “collect water.” Some exterior “patching and painting” is planned, too.
On to the interior: They want to change the bottleneck of how the entry works – requiring you to go through the ticket counter the moment you set foot into the building – so that people have some access to more of a “public space” in the lobby. For one, they’ll transfer condiments to a condiment counter, which will enable the addition of one more concession stand. They’ll reconfigure what’s in the lobby, and also change the look of the concession counters themselves.
(WSB file photo)
Overall, they want to pull as much signage as they can away from the Captain Vancouver mural (above) so that it’s showcased even more.
Enhancing the theme, Baron told the board they’re ordering a custom carpet “that will have nautical themes.” He said some of the mural art that will be uncovered inside the theater is believed to be in OK shape but will need restoration work, and they hope to partner with the community on that. New curtains are planned too.
The only member of the public to speak was Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals, who campaigned to save the theater almost three decades ago when it was in danger of closing forever. “This is a hugely exciting turning point, in fact, it will go down as a landmark year … the theater is a bellwether for the community.” He mentions the 1989-1992 closure, “and in those three years there were many empty storefronts” as a result. “This is what’s going to keep a landmarked business building alive. … The beauty of this is, these changes are being done without harming, and with in fact enhancing the historic features of this building … that caused this board to vote it to be landmarked 27 years ago.” He mentions that the centennial of the building itself (in its pre-Admiral incarnation) is just three years away. “Exposing the murals … will be a tremendously inspiring thing.” He called it “the next phase of a jewel … the only theater in the community … the only theater between the airport and downtown.”
Landmarks Board member Deb Barker (a West Seattleite) said that “cleaning up the mural in the lobby really makes a lot of sense …” Board member Rob Ketcherside said it will be good for the mural art to be seen by more people. Barker said, “What’s there now, you really have no idea that the side walls (hide the murals).”
Baron explained that all this is essential to make the theater a successful commercial venue, and that the building’s owner had looked at other possible uses, but continued operation of a moviehouse would be vital to truly honoring the reasons it was made a landmark.
With that, the board voted unanimously to give its approval. As noted in our coverage of the “Group Hug” event outside the theater earlier this month, Baron expects the work to get going by mid-August.
(Photo by Jean Sherrard, courtesy Southwest Seattle Historical Society; click here to see full-size version on SWSHS website)
10:58 AM: After a burst of excitement this morning, with a crowd including about 800 elementary-school students and former mayors Greg Nickels and Norm Rice, The Admiral District is getting back to the usual dull roar. The “Group Hug for The Admiral” photo event, organized by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, went off flawlessly, with photographers Jean Sherrard and Brad Chrisman atop a lift truck across the street from the historic theater, hailed as a classic “neighborhood moviehouse.” (Updated) Here’s what the crowd looked like on the ground:
The speakers included theater operator Far Away Entertainment, Sol Baron told WSB that the renovations to convert it into a fourplex – the reason to capture this moment in time – are expected to start by mid-August, provided the final permits come through. (added) You’ll hear him in this clip, introduced by Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals, who emceed and organized the event:
12:37 PM: More of how it unfolded: Plenty of orange-vested adults (the vests were loaned by Highland Park Elementary) were there to help ensure the safety of the students, who walked from each participating school – we rolled a bit of video as each arrived:
First, the most distant school, Schmitz Park:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) June 3, 2016
And here come the Alki Elementary students. Former mayors Rice and Nickels are here to greet them. pic.twitter.com/xE7aq7f0m1
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) June 3, 2016
Finally, the nearest school – about half a block south – Lafayette:
Third and final school to arrive, nearby Lafayette Elementary, crossing at California/Admiral pic.twitter.com/K4XOTJD31w
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) June 3, 2016
Along with those we’ve mentioned earlier, speakers also included the principals of all three participating schools – Shannon Hobbs-Beckley from Alki, Gerrit Kischner from Schmitz Park, and Robert Gallagher from Lafayette – as well as Jim Kelly from 4Culture (which donated $95,000 to the Admiral renovation project) and Shannon Braddock from County Councilmember Joe McDermott’s office:
The principals voiced appreciation for their students’ chance to be part of a moment in local history:
The theater, its operators stressed, will remain open throughout the renovation work later this year. We’ll find out more about the specifics as the plan goes to the city Landmark Preservation Board – whose approval is required because of the theater’s landmark status – later this month.
Mayor Nickels, as introduced by Eals, represented this area on the King County Council when The Admiral closed – in danger of never reopening – in 1989. The Admiral enhances our area’s “sense of community,” he pointed out, also lauding Eals for organizing the campaign to save the theater, which reopened in 1992. Mayor Rice was in office at the time of the reopening and said The Admiral continues to “symbolize West Seattle … and the people who care so much about it.”
P.S. From-above SWSHS photo added 10:30 am Saturday!
In case you missed our original mention and are going to be in The Admiral District at midmorning tomorrow (Friday), a reminder that almost a thousand students will be there too, for the “Group Hug for The Admiral” event. As reported here last week, it’s a big photo op to commemorate the soon-to-start major renovations at the historic Admiral Theater, organized by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which did the same thing for the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge on the first Friday of June last year. SWSHS executive director Clay Eals says neighbors in the area all have received a notice; students will start arriving, on foot, around 9:30 am, from Alki, Lafayette, and Schmitz Park Elementary Schools. The ceremony/photo is set for 10 am; former mayors Norm Rice and Greg Nickels (an Admiral-area resident) are scheduled to speak to them briefly. No streets will be closed but a few parking spaces in front of the theater will be off-limits for the duration of the event.
(June 2015 photo by Jean Sherrard, courtesy SWSHS)
Remember that scene at the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge last year, with hundreds of local students photographed in what Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals dubbed a “group hug,” to commemorate the start of its restoration? Something similar is about to happen for another West Seattle landmark – again on the first Friday in June. This time, it’s West Seattle’s only moviehouse, the Admiral Theater. Hundreds of area students will gather outside the theater at midmorning on June 3rd (one week from tomorrow) for another “group hug,” to be photographed from above, as the theater gets ready to launch its renovation project. No street closure, but things will be a little crowded outside the gas station/mini-mart next door; Eals tells us that’s where they’ll be gathering.
(WSB photo from February)
Speaking of the Admiral’s renovation work, which ultimately will turn it into a fourplex with lots of upgrades to its lovable-but-worn interior, readers have been asking about its status. So we checked with The Admiral’s Dinah Brein, who says the city permit process has had them in a holding pattern. “They are backed up 4-6 weeks. We initially were hoping to start first couple weeks of May, but now they won’t probably review until the end of June. At that point, depending on if they have any questions, comments or concerns that we need to address, we will have to resubmit again for their approval. We are thinking that we should be good to go no later than end of August, which would be good because the movies slow down until mid-October for the holidays.” That’ll be close to a year after the originally hoped-for timetable for getting the work started; the agreement between the theater’s owners and longtime operator Far Away Entertainment was announced early last year.
(WSB photo added 4:16 pm)
Less than an hour until the Christmas Ship‘s final West Seattle visits begin, and you can get ready for the second stop, at Alki Beach Park (5:10-5:30 pm, following 4:20-4:40 pm at Lowman Beach), by visiting the Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s ‘Holiday Party on the Porch,’ with free treats on the covered porch at the Log House Museum, right now at 61st SW & SW Stevens (half a block inland from where you’ll see the Christmas Ship).
The porch party is the second of two big events today for SWSHS:
(Photos courtesy Southwest Seattle Historical Society)
At the historic, city-landmark Admiral Theater, Santa Claus jingled his way into the auditorium during “Claus, Chowder, and Cartoons,” a free family event this morning. Santa’s stage show followed a program of short Christmas cartoons.
SWSHS supporter Duke’s Chowder House provided soup for the Admiral crowd and is doing the same at the museum right now.
(WSB photo from February)
Three landmark buildings in West Seattle are getting a boost from a county cultural-grant program.
(SW Seattle Historical Society photo from May: Dennis Schilling, Alki Homestead owner, with logs for restoration)
Here’s the announcement from West Seattle’s County Councilmember Joe McDermott, one day before county and cultural leaders gather to celebrate the list of grants that includes these three:
Renovation of the Admiral Theater and restoration of the Alki Homestead highlight a list of the projects in West Seattle and throughout King County that will receive funding to help maintain their buildings and preserve the arts and heritage programs that are held inside.
“As a lifelong West Seattle resident, I grew up going to the Admiral Theatre and Alki Homestead,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott. “I am proud to promote the rich cultural history in West Seattle through the Building for Culture grant program.”
The Admiral Theater received $95,000 towards a renovation that will see the number of screens double from 2 to 4. The 111 year old Alki Homestead was awarded $83,000 towards its complete restoration, after a fire destroyed it in 2009.
The funding for maintenance, repairs, and preservation were allocated from the Building for Culture Program and unanimously approved by the County Council. Building for Culture is a partnership between King County and 4Culture, King County’s cultural services agency, using bonds backed by the hotel-motel tax to build, maintain, expand, preserve, and improve new and existing cultural facilities.
After the Council approved the creation of the Building for Culture Program, 4Culture put out a request for proposals to nonprofit arts, heritage and cultural organizations and eligible public agencies, as well as owners of national-, state-, or local-designated or eligible landmark properties. 4Culture then convened independent peer panels composed of arts, heritage, and preservation professionals, and other community representatives to review applications and make the final selections.
Facilities receiving funding in West Seattle are:
Admiral Cinema LLC – Admiral Theater Renovation – $95,000
Delridge Neighborhood Development Association – Elevate Youngstown – $100,000
Dennis Schilling – Restoring the Alki Homestead –
$83,000$45,190 (correction from CM McDermott’s office on 11/24/2015)
The bonds supporting these projects are made possible by early retirement of the Kingdome debt. State law requires that hotel-motel tax revenues King County collects this year after repayment of the Kingdome debt be directed to arts and cultural programs.
That photo shared by the Admiral Theater might not be oozing Hollywood glamour … but it’s the next big step toward the historic moviehouse’s bright-as-the-stars future. The Admiral’s two new laser digital projectors are here, and manager Dinah Brein says that the first audiences to see them “commented on how amazing the high definition, crystal clear, and bright screen resolution enhanced their viewing experience. No more platters, no more bad film prints, no more stoppage in the middle of the movie.” That’s because, Brein adds, “these two new projectors (with two more to come by the end of the year) utilize all new laser technology replacing the standard projector light bulbs used in most theaters. Now, with *all* the light energy coming from lasers … the on-screen image is bigger, brighter and better.” And it means the film days are
It’s been four months since The Admiral announced it had the green light to proceed with renovations that will turn it into a modernized four-plex; that in turn came a few months after it started showing first-run movies.
(WSB photo: February marquee message at The Admiral, announcing the renovation plan)
The city-landmark Admiral Theater says its renovations – announced in February – are finally about to begin. It’s just announced that “two new state-of-the-art NEC Digital Laser Projectors will be installed early next month.” The theater’s announcement explains:
Laser technology offers an unparalleled viewing experience that is brighter, crisper and highlights the intensity of colors unlike traditional digital cinema projectors. In addition, moviegoers watching 3D films will view an image much brighter than is seen in systems now in use.
Utilizing a laser light source in lieu of traditional projector bulbs also extends the life of the projector and eliminates gradual dimming of images as a bulb begins to wear out.
“Everything we will be doing as a part of this renovation is designed to create a superior viewing experience and facility that while functionally modern, respects viewer comfort and the historical character of the theater,” said Jeff Brein of Far Away Entertainment, which operates and manages the theater. “We wanted the very best and latest projection technology to accompany what we’re planning with seating, sound, carpeting, new restrooms our concessions area and historical preservation. These initial laser projectors represent a first step in a journey that will culminate in a beautiful neighborhood theater.”
The permitting process for the Admiral will soon begin with the City of Seattle, while discussions with historical and neighborhood groups will be well underway this summer.
The Admiral says it’s now hoping to have renovations complete by this year’s holiday season.
(WSB photo from 2013: Mural over The Admiral’s concession area)
After many months of uncertainly, finally a breakthrough for West Seattle’s historic Admiral Theater. The company that runs it has announced “an agreement in principle” with the building’s owner, clearing the path to its much-needed, long-anticipated remodel, which will turn it into a fourplex.
Though The Admiral’s announcement (read it in full here) says the “planned improvements (will) begin this fall,” it also notes “an immediate conversion from 35mm film to state-of-the-art digital cinema and Dolby Surround Sound.” That will be followed by “phased=in revisions of the interior floor plan, adding two auditoriums (with elevated stadium seating), all-new chairs with cup holders, new carpeting and curtains, new screens (including 3D capability), and improved heating, air conditioning and ventilation. Additional improvements will also be evident in the restrooms, concessions area and upstairs Crow’s Nest Lounge.”
The Admiral is a city landmark with protected features, and Jeff Brein, managing partner of Far Away Entertainment – the Bainbridge-based regional chain that has run The Admiral since 2008 – says the plan recognizes that: “The existing architectural features, nautical theme, original artwork of captains and explorers, and unique lighting fixtures will be retained. Additionally, and perhaps most exciting, hand-painted historic murals hidden behind curtains for over 35 years will be uncovered and with financial support from grants and the community restored to their original condition.”
The Admiral will continue to work with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which worked to save the historic theater more than a quarter-century ago. And it expects to stay open “with minimal disruptions to moviegoers” during the work, which management hopes will lead to phased-in openings as soon as this August.
The theater started moving to first-run films with the successful premiere run of “Interstellar“ four months ago. That followed a long-running concern about a “ticking clock” as they waited for the now-secured longterm commitment so they could proceed with renovations, including an upgrade to digital projection.
P.S. We’ve asked for renderings of the Admiral’s future; not available yet, but soon, we’re told. For its almost-century-long backstory – dating back to its opening in 1919 as the Portola – check this 2013 story by SWSHS executive director Clay Eals.
ADDED 7:42 PM: Thanks to Clay for the tip on the customized marquee at the theater tonight, announcing the news – we went over to photograph it:
We also just heard back on one of our followup questions, to clarify the timeline: “The finished project should be done by end of summer, but one theater (actually 2) will be done before that. Also, digital projectors will be in by the end of March.”
(WSB photo, added Thursday afternoon)
If you don’t often check the schedule for West Seattle’s historic Admiral Theater, you might not have noticed yet, but the success of the “Interstellar” premiere run is bringing more first-run movies to The Admiral.
One big example: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (trailer above) is on the way, starting December 16. As for the theater’s future – very much up in the air as of our update last month – the latest is that the current management is “in talks with the landlord to move forward with the lease toward a hopeful renovation.” Stand by for updates.
P.S. Following up on a reader question, we asked theater manager Dinah Brein if they’re planning a Christmas movie again this year. Doesn’t look like it, she says, given how busy they’ve been with all of the above, but she’s expecting to have a holiday donation drive of some sort later this month.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It’s a week of big events at West Seattle’s city-landmark Admiral Theater. None bigger than tomorrow, when the first-run “Interstellar” premieres with a sneak-peek screening at 8 pm.
Tonight, Admiral manager Dinah Brein and her crew were preparing the film reels for the screening.
It’s an hours-long task, but one that is a reminder of the reason they are getting “Interstellar” before the megaplexes, as reported here last month: The Admiral is one of just a few theaters still screening in 35mm, and that’s one of three film formats in which the producers are releasing the movie two days in advance.
Tuesday will come just three nights after a crowd jammed in for the final monthly “Rocky Horror Picture Show” shadow-cast-enhanced screening:
Saturday night – the night after Halloween – brings the end of an era at West Seattle’s historic Admiral Theater – the last of the monthly “Rocky Horror Picture Show” events with shadow cast, after a decade. From The Admiral’s Dinah Brein:
Saturday night, November 1, will mark the final live shadow-cast performance of the Vicarious Theater Company as they shadow-cast The Rocky Horror Picture Show on the Admiral Theater stage.
The cast has performed here for over ten years and many of the original cast members are still involved.
“We have enjoyed our time with the Vicarious Theater group immensely,” said theater manager Dinah Brein. “They’ve been like a family to us. We’ve watched many of the cast members meet, fall in love, and even get married from their time here at the Admiral. I think the only one that will be sorry to see them go is the janitor. That was a lot of rice and toast to clean up over 10 years. We could have probably fed a small country.”
Come say goodbye to the cast and catch the show, this Saturday night, November 1st. Doors open at 11:30 and the ticket price is $6.00 – cash only (exact change preferred). You must be at least 17 or accompanied by an adult to attend as the pre-show and the movie are rated. R.
In case you’re wondering, we talked to Dinah while stopping by The Admiral for the “I Am Eleven” event on Tuesday night; still nothing new to report re: the theater’s future.
At Admiral Theater tonight, a sold-out house – about 300 people – got a bonus after watching the documentary “I Am Eleven” – they got to talk with its filmmaker, Genevieve Bailey, and her co-producer Henrik Nordstrom:
We caught up with Bailey, who is from Australia, and Nordstrom in the Admiral lobby, just before the post-film discussion with the audience. She said they had been in Atlanta previously and just decided to come – a modest jaunt for Bailey, who made her film by spending six years traveling the world filming the lives of 11-year-olds. Tonight’s screening was arranged by West Seattleites Susanna Moore and Anita Lavine through the on-demand service Gathr.
ADDED: Nordstrom shared this photo of the 11-year-olds in the audience, invited up to the stage (as mentioned in comments):