VIDEO: Admiral Theater ‘grand reopening’ celebration, report #2

(Admiral Theater’s historic lobby mural, photographed during celebration by Leda Costa)

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:

(WSB photos by Patrick Sand unless otherwise credited)

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)

Last night, Baron said he remains amazed at not only the increased patronage since the renovation work but the number of people who came even while it was under way. (The work was done incrementally in a way that allowed The Admiral to stay open – we reported here on the debut of the first overhauled auditorium in November.)

Months before the work began, its imminence was commemorated by a June 2016 “Group Hug” photo organized by SWSHS and starring local students:

2016 06-03 Group Hug for the Admiral Theater lowresJS
(Photo by Jean Sherrard, courtesy Southwest Seattle Historical Society; click here to see full-size version on SWSHS website)

Another touch of history last night – The Admiral’s outdoor ticket booth was even opened for the occasion – SWSHS board member Kerry Korsgaard was inside, distributing commemorative cards:

(Photo by Leda Costa)

Families celebrated the night with multiple generations in attendance, just as The Admiral’s story now spans generations. County Executive Dow Constantine stopped for a photo with dad John Constantine:

Other members of his family were there too, Executive Constantine noted, as he shared memories in his short speech you’ll see in this next clip, followed by County Council Chair Joe McDermott with his own:

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold noted that the history of The Admiral wasn’t just about watching movies but also – in the history that has led to it having a future – a history of activism:

Those in the spotlight during the gala included the couple who successfully bid during last year’s SWSHS “Loving Our Landmarks” gala champagne brunch/auction fundraiser (WSB coverage here) for a “grand reopening package,” Maryanne Tagney and David Jones:

During last year’s gala, this SWSHS photo was shown, a then-early look at part of the long-hidden “underwater” mural inside the auditoriums, with a mention of restoration work ahead:

(SWSHS photo as displayed onscreen at the gala)

And that’s what Eals talked about last night in short speeches to moviegoers before each of eight screenings during the “Four Screens, Four Eras” night. Here’s what he told the crowd waiting to see “Beauty and the Beast,” as he held an appliqué that will be returned to the art:

Watch for details on that soon. And in the meantime, if you haven’t been to The Admiral yet – be part of its present and future! It’s open seven days and nights a week; see the current movies, and schedule, by going here.

And while you’re there – look up, and around, and enjoy the other sights:

(Photo by Leda Costa)

The WSB archive of Admiral Theater coverage over the past decade, newest to oldest, is here.

17 Replies to "VIDEO: Admiral Theater 'grand reopening' celebration, report #2"

  • blbl March 23, 2017 (9:57 am)

    Yay!  Yay for everyone that helped make this happen!  I could not make it last night, but the Admiral is very special to me and my family.  So happy to see it shine. 

  • dobetter March 23, 2017 (11:55 am)

    How is it possible to write an entire story about the Admiral Theater restoration and not talk about the one thing — the ONLY thing — that is going to matter for the long term survival of this institution: were the theater renovations any good? Are the seats comfortable? Is the picture good? Is the sound good? 

    This story is PR fluff. It’s great that every politician in West Seattle was there. But they aren’t going to make this theater successful. 

    • WSB March 23, 2017 (12:28 pm)

      Hi there. No, it’s not “PR fluff.” It’s coverage of an event, plus backstory. As noted in the story, the actual renovations have been rolling out since November, and we’ve shown photos of the interiors of the auditoriums. This was not their debut. But even if it had been, we don’t write reviews, not of movie theaters, not of restaurants, not of anything. That’s for the patrons to judge. Since you ask, we’ve been to half a dozen or so movies at The Admiral since the auditoriums started opening last November, and I’d say the seats are comfy, the picture and sound are good, but that’s just how it seemed to me – you might feel differently – my opinion doesn’t matter any more than yours and that’s why we keep opinion out of our reports, which stick to the facts (what happened, who said what, what happens next, etc.). – TR

    • sam-c March 23, 2017 (12:29 pm)

      I do like the story, but yes, was wondering all this too! More photos of the renovated theater, less politician videos :)

      Hopefully the restrooms were renovated? (so you don’t have to straddle the toilet to open/ close the stall doors… Are the restrooms ADA accessible?)

    • newnative March 23, 2017 (2:40 pm)

      OMG, Dobetter.  You’re looking for a review, not a report.  

      I saw American Graffiti last night, it was my first time in since the renovation.  Seats were comfortable, the soundtrack was great.  Only thing that went wrong during the movie was that it looked like the disc slipped or something.  There was some slowdown and pixelations and people started to freak out, ended up lasting seconds though.  The other issue with the event itself is that I bought my ticket ahead of time-after reading here that I should-and yet when I arrived, they were selling tickets at the concessions counter.  Meaning, I had to wait in line with everyone that had not bought tickets and they didn’t have a dedicated concessions person.  I ended up not buying popcorn and soda.  

  • Dave March 23, 2017 (2:17 pm)

    I don’t like the seats. Too much play in the back so they recline so your feet are dangling. Would have been nicer to have the rows steeper, more stadium seating style so heads aren’t in front of you. Maybe there was no way around this though, structurally. Nice screens though and sound. Haven’t used the restroom yet but yeah, hope these have been renovated as well. Huge improvement overall. Bringing back first runs is great too. Like a lot if people, I remember when this was a second run theatre. Watching flicks just before they went to video or even when they were on video.

    • North of Admiral March 23, 2017 (3:47 pm)

      Did ya sit in the old seats Dave? A wooden box would have been more comfortable than those old sagging seats.

      I couldn’t get 15 minutes into a movie without my behind hurting.

      I’ve been to a show in the new theater and the seats are great!

      Sounds like you just need longer legs. 

      • MK March 23, 2017 (4:49 pm)

        Actually the old seats allowed your feet to comfortably go flat on the floor.  At 6ft2 my legs are perfectly long enough and I have the exact same issues as Dave with the new seats, they are not comfortable for any extended period of time.  Also the noise from the projectors needs attention, enclose them in a sound dampening box.  Show start times have been inconsistent, I have arrived with 5 minutes to spare only to find the movie already started.  Also the gruff attitude from some of the staff at the ticket point and overall lack of seeming to care about the patrons really needs to change.  Charging premium prices for a not quite premium service will only fly for so long, even with the convenience factor that a local movie theater brings.

        The Popcorn is still the tastiest around though!

  • miws March 23, 2017 (2:22 pm)

    Hey, DOBETTER, you think you can? Then DO

    And, as noted, this is “report #2”. Maybe there are more reports coming?


    • WSB March 23, 2017 (2:29 pm)

      Thanks, Mike. But no, there aren’t. I called it the second report because we had a short “happening now” first report last night, when there was still time for people to get to the second screenings of the one-night-only movies. It didn’t have anything more about the seats/screens/sound.

    • Gene March 23, 2017 (3:24 pm)

      The bathrooms are GREAT- seats are GREAT- sound is GREAT- popcorn was GREAT- but to each his own- that’s my opinion- go see for yourself DOBETTER- that’s the only way you’ll know if it meets your standards. 

  • Elton March 23, 2017 (2:56 pm)

    For those complaining: there were more photos back when WSB covered the renovations back in November. I personally like the seats – nothing special compared to other movie theaters but they’re good by theater seat standards. Picture and sound also great – pretty much on par with other movie theaters now. I’ve used the bathroom but don’t recall much about it.

  • Julia March 23, 2017 (3:24 pm)

    I was very happy to see such a big turnout last night. I went to the early screening of Maltese Falcon and the late screening of the silent comedy shorts; it looked to me like the early screenings at least were all quite full. The lobby was certainly packed when we showed up just before 6:00, and lines for bathrooms and popcorn were daunting.

    I’ve been to the Admiral several times since renovations have been completed and overall I’m delighted with what they’ve done. I find the seats very comfortable, even for longer movies, and I’m extremely petite and haven’t had any issues with sightlines. Piers 2 and 3 have more dramatic slopes and will be better for shorter people (I believe they’re also much larger than 1 and 2). Regarding the bathrooms, I can only speak to the womens’ restrooms, but yes, they are much improved, with wider (and more) stalls. You no longer need to practically stand on the toilet to open the door.

    There’s definitely some room for improvement in the day-to-day running of the theater, however. One time, there was a discrepancy between the showtime posted on the marquee and the website, which caused some significant confusion for us and another patron as we tried to purchase tickets. (The website ended up being correct.) I also experienced an issue with a 3D movie where it started strobing near the end, and continued for a couple of minutes until a patron went out to alert an employee. In similar situations with other theaters, the film has been paused while someone made a brief statement and then restarted from before the issue happened; in this case, the problem was corrected moving forward but nothing else was done.

    And this is probably an anomaly due to the structure of this particular screening, but the silent shorts last night was a bit of a fiasco – they decided against playing the advertised Harold Lloyd short in favor of showing the last eight minutes of a different one, and the four different shorts were all on different DVDs, which caused a lot of confusion and awkward waits while someone in the projection room listened to, and sometimes followed, Clay Eals’s shouted instructions. It was made somewhat more confusing by the fact that this was their second time screening these that evening, so I’m not sure why things weren’t a little smoother. If that had been my first experience of the new Admiral, it would not have made a good first impression.

    All that said, I’m thrilled to have the Admiral looking so good, and my positive experiences far outweigh the small frustrations. We are long overdue for a first-run theater in West Seattle and I overheard patrons of all ages last night express their delight in the Admiral’s resurgence.

  • Gene March 23, 2017 (5:55 pm)

    Dave & MK- –6’2″ as well & had no problem at all with seats- feet flat on floor- very comfortable.

    while old seats may have allowed feet to sit flat on floor-  butt was complaining after an hour- not so with new seats. So maybe it just depends on the individual- perfect for some- not so perfect for others. 

    Happy to have this great refurbished gem showing first run movies right here in WS. The price doesn’t bother me- but FYI- there’s a great GROUPON coupon available for movie & popcorn. 

  • Holly March 23, 2017 (6:27 pm)

    Thank you to everyone who made this happen! The theater is a part of the history and present of our neighborhood and part of why living in West Seattle is so great. I love that it’s a little bit arthouse and a bit Cineplex, and now beautiful and comfortable too. I’m 5’3″ and find the seats great, but everyone is different. I love the popcorn too. Is that real butter!?!

    Thank you for all the hard work. 

  • Junction Lady March 23, 2017 (7:46 pm)

    I agree about politician overload.

  • slc March 23, 2017 (10:15 pm)

    First run movies without having to leave the island.  What’s not to love?  Good restaurants all around – get to support your local restaurant AND see a first run movie at the same time.  No fighting traffic, no mall mentality, and no expensive $15 parking fee.  Yes, there are a few kinks to work out in the customer service area.  I’m willing to put up with it for reasonably comfortable seats, reasonable ticket prices, a first run movie, and NOT LEAVING THE ISLAND!  Seriously, what’s not to love?  If you’re not happy with the seats, etc., you can always drive downtown or to the megacomplex at Southcenter.  My family and I?  We’ll all be here.  

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