Curtain rises on Admiral Theater’s future: Agreement announced, renovations ahead

(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.”

41 Replies to "Curtain rises on Admiral Theater's future: Agreement announced, renovations ahead"

  • Tim February 27, 2015 (6:02 pm)

    Sounds like a positive plan at first read. I love having this theater in WS.

  • Some Guy February 27, 2015 (6:09 pm)

    Some Guy is very happy to read this. I would be even more delighted if the ATNY folks have figured out a way to save one of the 35mm Film projectors (Film is the new Vinyl!)for use for special screenings. Also hope to see new paint and a repaired sign out front. No matter what though, congratulations on hanging in there to see this through.

  • m February 27, 2015 (6:32 pm)

    Does the theater have its own parking or is it street only?

  • movie goer February 27, 2015 (6:34 pm)

    Great news. I have enjoyed watching first run movies at the Admiral.

  • PDH February 27, 2015 (7:00 pm)

    Excellent news!

  • Gina February 27, 2015 (7:10 pm)

    Are the murals really still there? And the ceiling painting? Hidden since 1972.

  • Lois wilson February 27, 2015 (7:40 pm)


  • Jim February 27, 2015 (7:45 pm)

    Hooray! I’m giving some credit for this good news to increased density in WS. Progress! (And good riddance to those dingy curtains.)

  • Nate February 27, 2015 (8:01 pm)

    Sweet! I hope they don’t change too much, especially the popcorn. It’s the best popcorn in town and beats the stale garbage you get at the theaters downtown.

  • newnative February 27, 2015 (8:17 pm)


  • Admiral fan February 27, 2015 (8:17 pm)

    Please have stadium seating!

  • Little Nell February 27, 2015 (8:18 pm)

    Those dingy curtains were perfect for The Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screenings.
    …but I do hope they wash the floor. Am I the only one whose feet stick to the floor? 😁

  • Ttt February 27, 2015 (8:53 pm)

    Hurrrah! We love having the admiral in west seattle, and now we will lovevit even more! So excited about this news!! No more need to go downtown on datenights!

  • Mike P February 27, 2015 (9:05 pm)

    I am so happy. And agree, victory for density!

  • Nic February 27, 2015 (9:06 pm)

    Hallelujah! The seats are currently terrible. I look forward to something a little more Majestic Bay remodel-esque. Can’t wait to check it out after the remodel.

  • Beto February 27, 2015 (9:07 pm)

    That’s great news for West Seattle! The Admiral really needed a renovation and these news can’t get any better….

  • Woohoo February 27, 2015 (9:08 pm)

    Lucky lucky! I visited this theater from Capitol Hill with my parents in the early. 80s for blockbusters only to go to the $3 movies when I lived here as an adult. Exciting to read !

  • some dude February 27, 2015 (9:09 pm)

    Glad to see it still around! I loved the low-rent feel though, sorry guys. Suppose I will just have to put up with digital projection and upcoming shiny-ness to keep it around. Being an ex-projectionist influences me though, hope it’s not ALL first run in the future.

  • dsa February 27, 2015 (9:24 pm)

    This is definitely good news for all of us.
    However, it seems like a pretty tall order to convert to a four plex while remaining open *and* completion by the end of summer.
    Some expectations might not be met.

  • JTB February 27, 2015 (9:54 pm)

    It will be nice to have decent sound.

  • chelle February 27, 2015 (10:17 pm)

    Where will the additional 2 screens go? Are they expanding the building?

  • JanS February 27, 2015 (11:51 pm)

    was just talking about the need to replace the curtains last week…yay…and it’s within walking distance of me…just a block and a half :D

  • Ray West February 28, 2015 (5:53 am)

    I want the Admiral Theater to live on forever, but I don’t want to walk in and gasp, “Where the heck is my old Admiral?” That was the horror that greeted me the first time I saw West Seattle High School after it was “renovated” and there was virtually nothing left of the school I went to. Hopefully, that is not what will be happening here, despite the positive spin being put on it.

  • SGG February 28, 2015 (6:55 am)

    The recently renovated Neptune Theater in the University District should be the model for how a renovation should be done.

    Congratulations Admiral Theater!

  • wsea February 28, 2015 (7:30 am)

    street parking is difficult but there is a parking garage next to bartells a block away. It’s pretty cheap.

    I would love to see more bike parking once this is complete. We always bike to copper coin. Oh.. and they should also bring back the dinner and a movie deal with the local restaurants.

  • G February 28, 2015 (7:47 am)

    People still go to movie theatres?

  • Cid February 28, 2015 (8:31 am)

    SUCH good news!

  • onion February 28, 2015 (9:30 am)

    Congrats to the Admiral team. With four screens I would love to see the Admiral include more independent and foreign films on at least one of their screens. Combine that with comfortable seating and better quality sound and projection and you have a destination for adults as well as teenagers.
    P.S. There needs to be really good soundproofing to block noise spillover from one theater to another, especially if you show superhero “shoot ’em ups.”

  • Mat February 28, 2015 (10:00 am)

    Awesome news, I love going to this theater when I can and it’ll be nice to have bathrooms with a little less ummm ‘patina’ :)

  • Annie February 28, 2015 (10:04 am)

    Yay! great news – I hope they have enough funding for a higher end renovation. I love the preservation plan and excited to see the murals that have been covered up! I would also love to see improved concessions like at the Cinerama. and I hope going to 4 screens doesn’t mean tiny screens (although the ones now are huge so I would think they can go to 4 and still seem decent sized?).

  • Ken Layton February 28, 2015 (11:54 am)

    Converting over to big screen tv projection is not necessarily an improvement, but a requirement today in exhibition. Also, chopping up the existing two houses into a total of 4 houses will certainly make each house dinky. What with Seattle fire regulations I bet each house will be 75 to 80 seats. Probably have to install fire sprinkler systems too.

  • Some Guy February 28, 2015 (1:29 pm)

    So, if the outer wall murals are up for restoration, then it seems to me that the anticipated layout will have the screens be back to back down the center of the building. You’ll walk down one of two hallways and then enter towards the middle. OR, you’ll walk down one hallway and enter into theaters facing outwards. This means hallways behind the screens. Either of these layouts means a complete remodel past the lobby. I suppose there could be upstairs and downstairs theaters, but again, this is a gutting of the building. So A) really curious to see the mock up and B)all of the other concerns should be met putting the Admiral on the same level as the Bay or Sundance. Either way, very excited.

  • wsgal February 28, 2015 (6:16 pm)

    Such great news, so happy to see the Admiral Theater is staying and getting this much needed make-over.

  • lady February 28, 2015 (7:55 pm)

    ah yes..sticky floors, ripped velvet curtains, missing seats, a permanently “closed” balcony,bathroom stalls soooo old (but a.good full length mirror) overpriced concessions but still love the Admiral…hope they really accentuate the ship theme and and look forward to the reno!

  • Julie February 28, 2015 (7:57 pm)

    Very good news. Now if they’ll just, please, not crank up the sound level.

  • Josh March 1, 2015 (9:41 am)

    Yes! This is great news. Now if I want to go out for dinner and a movie I can stay around my own neighborhood.

  • Myr-myr March 1, 2015 (4:28 pm)

    And …just a thought…a flat “marquee” on the south side of the building to display what’s playing.

  • Lena March 2, 2015 (8:44 pm)

    Thank God! Will it be cleaner? The current unhygienic flair is revolting.
    I’m glad that it will be remodeled soon. I hope they maintain it.

  • Colin March 3, 2015 (9:21 am)

    This is great news overall. I will miss 35mm projection, but understand it’s ‘convert to digital “video” projection or die’ now. It will be interesting to see how the additional auditoriums will be added. Looking forward to seeing those murals again!

  • Admiral Theater March 5, 2015 (6:48 pm)

    Just to chime in, yes there will be 4 theaters and 2 will be smaller about 150-180 seats, but the two back theaters will probably seat about 280 or more as the stadium seating will start from behind the current screen (getting rid of the stages) and extend out the opposite way (towards the smaller theater. They will share one wall for the new screens.

    Also at 8.50 a ticket for all shows before 5 pm and 8.50 for kids and seniors, the Admiral is STILL way below the other larger chains.

    Plus our concessions ARE STILL lower than any of those other theaters. They call our small popcorn, their MEDIUM size and charge 3.00 more for it. Most important, we use coconut oil, and mushroom style seeds which result in a bigger kernel. Take that AMC!

  • Marianne Blake March 8, 2015 (11:40 am)

    Wow! We native West Seattleites have been hoping for something like this to happen to our Admiral Theater. Are the ‘neon’ fish still on the many times covered up walls? I hope so.

Sorry, comment time is over.