Admiral Theater – West Seattle Blog… West Seattle news, 24/7 Wed, 15 Aug 2018 08:02:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 After almost a decade, Dinah Brein says farewell to the Admiral Theater Thu, 28 Dec 2017 20:30:49 +0000 (Dinah Brein, photographed by WSB’s Patrick Sand on opening night for Star Wars Episode VIII)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

In the Admiral Theater‘s long and storied history, the curtain is about to fall on another episode.

This one has spanned almost a decade, including the latest incidence of West Seattle’s moviehouse being brought back from the brink. You might subtitle it “Return of the First-Runs,” though that’s just part of the story.

What’s happening is that next week will bring the departure of The Admiral’s longtime manager Dinah Brein. She says simply, “It’s time.” Her brother, Jeff Brein, is co-proprietor of Far Away Entertainment, an independent regional chain of community movie theaters including The Admiral, and Dinah’s been working for him since 2004, four years before she came to The Admiral, originally doing public-relations work for his PR firm on Bainbridge Island.

After Dinah and her husband Larry McClellan bought a house in West Seattle in 2006, that started to become a somewhat onerous commute. When her brother took over The Admiral, an opportunity arose for her to work much closer to home.

But at first, she wasn’t running the theater.

Keep in mind, it was at the time second-run, two-auditorium theater, sorely in need of work, and her challenge was to focus on promotion and special events, to keep The Admiral a vital part of the community. More than 15 years had elapsed since the theater – saved by a community campaign – reopened in 1992 after a three-year shutdown.

Music was part of what Dinah brought – something she’s very familiar with, with roots as a successful songwriter in entertainment-focused cities including Nashville – but special film events were, too. In 2008, the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival had screenings at The Admiral. That’s also the year the Crow’s Nest Lounge debuted – our report detailed a long list of planned special events, from a concert headlined by The Admiral District’s own Brent Amaker (with The Rodeo) to a celebration of West Seattle-rooted movie star Frances Farmer.

(The Crow’s Nest, in fact, overlooking The Admiral’s lobby from its second level, is where we sat down for this interview.)

Eventually, Dinah wound up in charge of the entire Admiral operation. And that led to some new skills – in leading a team that kept it running despite the challenge of aging equipment.

“I had never before built a film,” she recalls. The term refers to prepping a film for projection – and it really was film, before The Admiral went digital – here’s a WSB photo from 2014:

Sometimes, a film would burn – while being screened. As second-run, film-projecting theaters like The Admiral (was) became fewer and far between, there was nothing they could do but try to keep going.

And – present more special events.

(WSB photo, 2009)
Even the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) had screenings at The Admiral.

But Dinah’s favorite remains: “The wedding.” The March 2009 extravaganza was part film screening, part live event. As part of a contest, John and Melodie, whose on-and-off love story spanned 40 years, got married onstage before a screening of “Mamma Mia“:

(WSB photo, 2009)
Dinah fondly recalls securing donations from a variety of local businesses to make it a wedding package to remember. The bride and groom weren’t even from West Seattle – but “although nobody knew anybody … they said this was the most magical thing, to be surrounded by such love and support.”

The Admiral itself, as a city landmark with a history going back a century (to its opening as the Portola in 1919), has been surrounded by love and support too. But the road to renovation wasn’t an easy one. The “waiting game” for a new lease, in order to pave the way for the transformation, was particularly tough. The breakthrough came almost three years ago. During that “waiting game,” Dinah said, she wondered sometimes why she was staying – maybe out of loyalty to her brother, but also, “people SO wanted this thing to work.” It was all so close to not working – in summer 2014, they were in danger of no longer receiving movies to show, because they were still using film projection, and most theaters weren’t. While it was something of a cliffhanger at the time, Dinah also recalls working “to be creative enough to keep it open.”

That creativity stretched into the renovation work, “when it was decided to stay open while doing one (auditorium) at a time.” With little storage space, they had to find somewhere to store chairs – in boxes in one auditorium where “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” was being shown a year ago, leading one patron to loudly berate the staff for “trash all over the theater.”

“I said, ‘these are our boxes of our new (seats),” Dinah recalled. And while the patron continued his rant, she said, other patrons were yelling at him, asking him to respect the fact that “they’re keeping this theater open!”

Meantime, while the renovations were much-publicized, she says, some people are still showing up surprised to see the changes, and “brand-new everything.”

Her parting words weren’t all memories. She also spoke of gratitude for the staff. Tony Phan has been chosen to succeed her as manager. She has warm words for him and so many who have worked there – “without them, this theater wouldn’t have stayed open” – workers she declares have “busted their butts.”

And this episode of the Admiral’s transformation saga isn’t over. Restoration of the historic sea-themed mural is pending the results of a fundraising campaign led by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which has been a partner going back well before Dinah’s time, though her near-decade has included memorable events like the June 2016 “Group Hug”:

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

The “Group Hug” was one of more than a few events during Dinah’s tenure that were orchestrated by then-SWSHS executive director Clay Eals, who was also deeply involved in the 1980s/1990s effort to save the theater. She refers to him as her “guardian angel”; in addition to one-of-a-kind music and film events from the Pete Seeger celebration to the “Legends of the Road” screening, he also was right there by her side – literally – during The Admiral’s “Grand Reopening” party this past March:

(March 2017 WSB photo by Patrick Sand)

And now, Dinah’s near-decade at the historic moviehouse will become another chapter of its history. So what’s next for her?

A somewhat slower schedule, for starters. On the day we talked, she had started with toast at 7 am – then nothing to eat until some cake at 5 pm (an employee brought leftover birthday cake from a party), right when we arrived for the interview. In her initial weeks and months post-Admiral, she’ll be getting some rest and taking care of personal business: “I’m going to do some serious decompression” and figure out what’s next. “I miss music more than anything – I’ll be able to go back to LA, Nashville, and do some writing.” Maybe voiceovers, too – if you’ve ever met Dinah, you know she has a versatile voice that could easily span a wide range of personalities.

She also loves animals and can envision volunteer work; in her Nashville days, she was part of a task force that helped overhaul a troubled shelter. And a few years down the line, she foresees some travel with her husband.

But first, the last week of work – she expects next Thursday (January 4th) to be her last day – and final reflections. She says she realized the mission at The Admiral was not just to entertain, but also “to create a welcoming space … I hope I get remembered for that.”

P.S. Since our interview, Dinah has shared a detailed farewell and list of acknowledgments here.

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UPDATE: ‘Polar Express’ tickets all taken Mon, 04 Dec 2017 22:29:41 +0000

ORIGINAL REPORT 2:29 PM MONDAY: Want to see “The Polar Express” for free this Saturday? Alice Kuder and some of her colleagues at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate (WSB sponsor) are sponsoring a free showing at 10 am Saturday (December 9th) at West Seattle’s historic Admiral Theater. This is the third year that they have organized this for their clients and the families of Sunshine Kids cancer patients, but they would love to have a full house, Alice tells us, and so about 40 tickets remain, so they’re offering those free tickets to YOU – “first-come, first served) – 4 maximum per family or group.”

To request tickets, contact Alice: or voice/text at 206-708-9800.

She and the other sponsors will provide free cookies, hot cocoa, and coffee at the screening (and the Admiral’s concession stand will be open too). If you go, consider also bringing a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots. Alice will let us know when the tickets are gone, and we’ll update this announcement then.

MONDAY LATE-NIGHT UPDATE: Tickets all taken!

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Seattle Latino Film Festival coming to Admiral Theater for closing-night screening, party Mon, 02 Oct 2017 03:30:38 +0000

That’s the trailer for “The Duel of Wine (El Camino del Vino),” which will have its Pacific Northwest premiere at West Seattle’s Admiral Theater as part of the closing-night celebration for this year’s Seattle Latino Film Festival.

The 9th annual festival showcasing Latin American films starts next Friday night (October 6th) downtown and continues for the following week, at venues around the area, from downtown to Federal Way (see the full list of screenings here) – concluding with the film and closing-night party at The Admiral on Saturday, October 14th. Betty Santiago from SLFF tells WSB that the star and producer of “Duel of Wine,” Charlie Arturaola and Lino Pujia, will be in attendance. We’re mentioning this early so you can get tickets if you want to be there – the film and party are included in your $25, and you can get your tickets online, here.

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AT THE ADMIRAL: Panel discussion after ‘Inconvenient Sequel’ opening night Friday Tue, 08 Aug 2017 21:03:07 +0000

(Trailer for ‘Inconvenient Sequel’)

Just in from the Admiral Theater:

This Friday, we are excited to begin our engagement of “An Inconvenient Sequel,” Al Gore’s follow up to his 2006 pivotal movie, which brought the importance of the global-warming issue to the forefront.

A decade ago, “An Inconvenient Truth” brought climate change into the heart of popular culture. Gore’s follow-up sequel shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. From director Davis Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Sequel, offers a passionate and inspirational look at one man’s commitment to expose the myths and misconceptions that surround global warming and inspire actions to prevent it.

The movie will normally screen at 7 PM, but Friday starts at 6:30 pm so that after we can bring an exciting and informative Q&A panel of experts to answer questions and teach our audience what they can do in Washington to battle the effects of this very real issue.

The evening will be hosted by Washington Women for Climate Action Now!. This summer, WashingtonWomenCAN partnered with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project to train women across our state to speak eloquently and confidently on the urgent need for powerful climate action. Climate change affects us all, but the impacts and solutions often depend on where we live. This partnership has empowered more than 50 Washington women to speak out in their own communities across our state and to lead us to a clean energy future.
The panel will feature Heidi Roop, a climate scientist with a passion for science and communication. She is currently the Strategic Communications Lead for the UW Climate Impacts Group. Heidi’s professional mission is to improve the reach and impact of climate science in order to engage, motivate and catalyze action around climate change.

Additional panelists will be added during the week and hopefully throughout the run of the movie there will be additional opportunities for more speakers and Q&A panels.

As we got ready to publish this, we got word of one more panelist for Friday: Belinda Chin, a Climate Reality Leader and Seattle Parks and Rec Program Coordinator for Sustainable Operations.

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‘Part of our heritage’: WSHS alum Timothy Brock to showcase his silent-film-scoring work @ Admiral Theater benefit Sat, 22 Jul 2017 05:38:56 +0000

(Timothy Brock’s video invitation to Tuesday’s event, courtesy of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The last time composer/conductor Timothy Brock was onstage in West Seattle, he was a WSHS student, performing with one of the school’s musical groups.

During his years at the school, he was involved with them all – band, orchestra, stage band, chamber orchestra, choir – he recalled during a conversation this week outside the Admiral Theater, where he’s headlining the next fundraiser for restoration of the moviehouse’s historic circa-1942 murals:

At 6:45 pm next Tuesday night (July 25th), he will be onstage just a few blocks from his alma mater, in a multifaceted event explained by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which is leading the mural-restoration fundraising campaign:

This exciting evening – to last more than three hours, with an intermission – will start with Timothy Brock being interviewed by his childhood friend, West Seattle’s Dave Beck, a host at KING-FM and longtime former KUOW-FM host.

Brock will reminisce with Beck about their West Seattle upbringing and discuss the fascinating process of scoring silent classics. (Brock earned the label of “Silent-Film Music Guru” from Vogue magazine in May 2016.)

Interspersed will be stills and clips from silent films that Brock has scored. Following an intermission, Brock will introduce the screening of the Charlie Chaplin feature “Modern Times,” for which Brock has restored and re-recorded the original 1936 Chaplin score.

This isn’t Brock’s first trip back home – far from it. His mom and sister live in this area. His oldest son lives in Olympia. That’s where Brock moved at age 18, leaving West Seattle, and eventually spending more than a decade conducting the Olympia Chamber Orchestra. Olympia is where he says most of his “silent-film experiments” were initiated, but he now lives in Europe, where there is more of an appreciation for what he specializes in – composing scores for silent films. And it’s not just an appreciation from the spectator standpoint; Brock explains that silent-film history is taught, and in France, there’s even a program to teach silent-film composition.

His path toward his unique career started with a visit to the now-gone Granada Theater (south of The Junction) at an early age. “I actually came back and said to my mom, ‘this is something I would really like to do – play piano and make music for really old films’. She didn’t know I meant silent films. (I explained), ‘no, these don’t have any words at all, just words (onscreen) and music’. She’s been worried about my career ever since.”

He was age 10 when that interest was kindled. At 23, he was commissioned to write his first silent-film score, for “Pandora’s Box,” a film by G.W. Pabst. Since then, he says, he’s written on average one silent-film score a year. He just completed one for Fritz Lang‘s 1929 “Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon),” a three-hour science-fiction film that he says was the first of its kind. The premiere was last April. He’s now writing a violin concerto for the BBC Symphony, to premiere next season, in 2018-2019.

So what’s it going to be like, to be onstage at The Admiral next Tuesday? we asked.

“It’s the most bizarre feeling to see your name on the marquee of a theater you grew up with,” Brock acknowledged. But also – “It’s great. It’s a little like coming back home and playing for your friends … talking with family and friends about what it is that you do.”

We asked how he views the importance of what it is that he does – Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals recorded Brock’s answer on video:

As you can hear in the video, he listed several reasons – “It’s part of our heritage, specifically for Americans, too … an art form that has obviously died out,” as have most of the people who performed as silent-film musicians. So many of them, Brock explained, performed in symphony orchestras as well as the theater orchestras that played the silent-film accompaniment. And now – “It’s a matter of keeping that art up, learning the craft, teaching it to future generations. One of the reasons I live in Europe is that orchestras of middle- and high-caliber program silent films as part of their seasons.”

The music itself, he added, is of great historical value, with work by composers such as Shostakovich “who liked the idea of writing for this [then-]new art form. … It needs to be kept alive.” Brock’s work includes the silent-film programs for the New York Philharmonic: “It’s important just like any period performances of baroque or Middle Ages [etc.] music.”

And his early music education at West Seattle High School helped lay the groundwork for his one-of-a-kind career. In our conversation, he listed “some fabulous teachers,” including Donn Weaver, who recently retired as director of the West Seattle Big Band.

So come to The Admiral on Tuesday night to see and hear how one of your former West Seattle neighbors is preserving and enhancing film and music history, while contributing to the preservation and restoration of the theater’s historic murals. Tickets are $20 and you’ll want to buy yours online ASAP – go here and choose “Modern Times” at the bottom of the page. (There’s also a $100 VIP opportunity, to meet and talk with Brock and Beck at 5:30 pm.)

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RESTORING THE ADMIRAL’S MURALS: Next benefit brings ‘Silent Film Music Guru’ Timothy Brock home to West Seattle Mon, 10 Jul 2017 02:28:26 +0000
(Images courtesy Southwest Seattle Historical Society)

Two weeks from Tuesday, it’s your second chance to enjoy a one-of-a-kind evening of entertainment and help raise money to restore the 75-year-old murals at The Admiral. Here’s the announcement from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society:

Restoration of the art-deco underwater murals of West Seattle’s Historic Admiral Theater will get another boost this summer with a one-night presentation by a West Seattle native whose orchestral scores for classic movies of the pre-sound era have earned him the title of the “Silent Film Music Guru.”

The event is called “Timothy Brock Returns to West Seattle with Music of the Silent Giants.”

It will take place at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, 2017, at the Historic Admiral Theater, 2343 California Ave. SW, sponsored by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.

This exciting evening – to last more than three hours, with an intermission – will start with Timothy Brock being interviewed by his childhood friend, West Seattle’s Dave Beck, a host at KING-FM and longtime former KUOW-FM host. Brock will reminisce with Beck about their West Seattle upbringing and discuss the fascinating process of scoring silent classics. (Brock earned the label of “Silent-Film Music Guru” from Vogue magazine in May 2016.)

Interspersed will be stills and clips from silent films that Brock has scored. Following an intermission, Brock will introduce the screening of the Charlie Chaplin feature “Modern Times,” for which Brock has restored and re-recorded the original 1936 Chaplin score.

Tickets are $20, and proceeds will go to the Historic Admiral Theater mural restoration led by the historical society. A VIP opportunity, to attend the presentation and visit one-on-one with Brock and Beck beforehand, will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the theater. VIP tickets are $100.

You can purchase tickets online here, or at the door. Advance ticket purchases are encouraged, as the event may sell out.

Timothy Brock, who has long lived in Bologna, Italy, is internationally renowned for his orchestral scores for the movies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and many other silent film classics. Over 30 years, he has composed 27 original scores for silent films, and he has served as the film restorer for the Chaplin estate since 1998. Brock also conducts symphonies in live performances of his scores to accompany presentations of silent films all over the world.

This month Brock is making a rare return to his boyhood community, where, as a 10-year-old in the early 1970s, he watched organ-accompanied silent films at West Seattle’s beloved Granada Theater south of The Junction and drew the initial inspiration for his career, which he labels a “lifelong dream.” (The Granada was razed in 1977.)

To see Brock discuss this West Seattle-based inspiration, go here (or view below – time code 1:20-1:50):

Brock’s mother is Berlena Brock, former board member of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.

This unique presentation on July 25 will be the second event this summer to benefit the historical society’s fund to restore the auditorium murals of the Historic Admiral Theater. The first event, a screening of the local documentary “Legends of the Road,” drew 200 people to the theater and raised more than $5,000 for the fund.

The murals date to 1942, when the Portola Theater was converted and expanded to the Admiral Theater. They were covered by curtains when the theater was twinned in 1973 and uncovered as part of the theater’s recent renovation to four screens.

The Historic Admiral Theater became an official Seattle landmark in 1989, following a campaign led by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.

More information about Brock is available at his website,

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FOLLOWUP: ‘Legends of the Road’ screening raises $5,000+ for Admiral Theater mural restoration; another fundraiser ahead Thu, 29 Jun 2017 09:17:12 +0000 Tuesday night’s “Legends of the Road” screening at the Admiral Theater, to benefit the fund for restoring its historic murals, was a success on multiple levels.

“Pier 4” at The Admiral was almost full by showtime.

(Videos courtesy Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Above, pre-film introductions)

In pre-film remarks, executive director Clay Eals of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society – which is leading the restoration effort – observed that the crowd included former mayor Greg Nickels in a Kansas City Monarchs hat. (The Monarchs were the team honored by the high-school baseball players featured in the movie as they “barnstormed” on a 5,100-mile baseball trip in 2000, organized by students from Chief Sealth HS to pay tribute to the Negro Leagues players’ legendary travels.)

Also at the screening – Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick, who’s part of the film, and “Legends of the Road” producer/director Gary Thomsen, the former Chief Sealth teacher whose students carried out the ambitious-to-say-the-least project. They answered questions after the screening, joined by one of the former Sealth students who produced the barnstorming trip (with all the filming done by students too). Before the screening, Kendrick had a story about Seattle barnstorming history, with the Monarchs playing games here against a team called the House of David, which he described as “an all-white religious sect based out of Michigan. … Seattle has long been an important part of this story.”

Every cent raised Tuesday night goes to restoration of the 75-year-old murals, which, as Eals noted (you can see part of one in the video), were hidden under curtains when the theater was twinned in 1973, and uncovered during last year’s renovation work that turned The Admiral into an all-first-run fourplex. With paid admission approaching 200, and a post-film auction of two donated 1942 Monarchs replica jerseys for $600 each, that totals at least $5,000.

Another fundraising effort is in the works, Eals tells us. The formal announcement is expected within a week or so, but you can save the date – July 25th – for a full evening “consisting of an in-person presentation by the world-renowned, France-based ‘silent film guru’ Tim Brock, who scores films for the Chaplin Foundation and countless other films, and who grew up in West Seattle and got the inspiration for his film-scoring career when, as a 10-year-old in the early 1970s, he watched organ-accompanied silents at West Seattle’s Granada Theater, which was razed in 1977. Tim will be interviewed on stage by his childhood friend, West Seattle’s Dave Beck (current KING-FM host and longtime former KUOW-FM host), show stills and clips from films he has scored and, after an intermission, introduce the full-length ‘Modern Times’ by Chaplin.”

As for what’s next for “Legends of the Road,” it’s on the film-festival circuit, having premiered in Kansas City, and heading to Minneapolis. That was part of Tuesday night’s post-film Q&A:

Thomsen hopes to screen it eventually in the cities that were part of the barnstorming-tribute tour. As for here at home, he says its next local screening isn’t scheduled yet but he’s working on another event that might include it. Whenever it happens, you’ll want to take anybody who needs a little inspiration … as Paul, one of the former students, told the audience last night, the project gave him a lot of confidence. Bob Kendrick declared that “every educator should see this film,” to get a view into an “amazing experiential learning project.”

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HISTORY X 2: Why you want to be at The Admiral for ‘Legends of the Road’ Tuesday night Tue, 27 Jun 2017 04:56:09 +0000
(Photos courtesy Clay Eals)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“It has drama, it has charm, it has youthful exuberance.”

So enthuses Bob Kendrick about “Legends of the Road,” the locally produced documentary that will be screened at the historic Admiral Theater tomorrow night to raise money to restore its murals.

Most of all, it has history – history that Bob knows well. He is president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, visiting West Seattle to be part of the screening, which is the story of a Chief Sealth (pre-International) High School teacher and his students who made a groundbreaking 5,100-mile bicycle trip at the turn of the millennium to recreate the leagues’ “barnstorming” trips.

(Bob Kendrick and Gary Thomsen)

That since-retired teacher, Gary Thomsen, was part of our conversation today with Bob and with Clay Eals of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which is presenting Tuesday night’s event.

Even if you’re not a baseball fan – or history buff – there are reasons to go see it.

For one: Bob described the students’ work as one of the best “experiential learning” projects he’s ever heard of, an example of how history “can be used creatively.”

Here’s the official description of the film, from its website: “… a deeply moving account of 28 public high-school students from Chief Sealth High School … who in 1999-2000 completed an extraordinary research project on a largely unknown baseball phenomenon known as barnstorming. And, then in 2000, re-created a ‘Barnstorming Tour’ to commemorate the 100th anniversary of barnstorming.”

The students planned and carried out the tour – even finding a way to finish it after they started to run out of money – by working with their strengths. They researched, they raised money, they discussed and debated. This is all part of the movie, we’re assured. Gary recalls that when the late great Negro Leagues player and manager Buck O’Neil (1911-2006) visited the school for a reunion, five years after the Sealth students’ barnstorming trip, and many of his other students hadn’t even heard about the leagues: “They were learning about history from a guy who lived it. Buck could talk about racism as well as baseball … as a teacher, it was amazing. They had lots of questions for him.” He’s in the official trailer:

“He had a way of commanding a room,” added Bob. “Kids were drawn to him.” O’Neil also made history as the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball – and that opens up another part of the storyline here:

Some have a misconception that the Negro Leagues were somehow lesser teams with lesser talents, Bob says, but that couldn’t be further from the truth: “As we introduce people to the general history of the Negro Leagues, most folks don’t know about that part of history, so we’re always trying to help substantiate just how important the Negro Leagues were, and just how good they were. The barnstorming aspect helps demonstrate how the Negro Leagues took the product to remote towns and countries that hadn’t experienced this brand of baseball before …” The Sealth students’ project helped with that substantiation, he adds.

And what a history:

(Part of our interview, recorded by SWSHS’s Clay Eals)

“These great stars … When Satchel Paige rolled into town, these towns closed down! … If the town had 1,000 people, 900 were there. … It was that kind of phenomenon. Some people think that if it didn’t happen in the major leagues, it didn’t happen. The museum is there to tell you that it did happen. This project verifies and substantiates it. … Two major leagues were operating simultaneously. One, the major leagues. The other, the Negro Leagues, which did the exact same thing, with the best Black and Hispanic baseball players. The Negro Leagues wouldn’t take a back seat to any league – filled with extremely talented athletes. They might not have been as well-financed, but the play on the field was just as good. Fast, aggressive, daring – they bunted, they stole bases … exciting things that drew a substantial fan base whether it was part of league games or barnstorming around the country.”

“Legends of the Road” is not just the student-filmed story of the ride and the games, but also oral histories that the students recorded: “It really brought the experience back to life for people who might just have read about it.”

And, Bob says with a big smile, “I’m barnstorming – we barnstorm all over the country to take this story and this message, about what this museum represents.” He clearly misses O’Neil, who became “a star … at 82” in the Ken Burns baseball documentary, “with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that lit up the screen. … He lived for another 12 years so he could carry the message. Now we’re trying to carry the message forward (to) keep the legacy alive after the last Negro Leaguer has passed away.”

About 100 are still alive, Bob adds. Many “forgotten heroes … mainstream America missed some of the greatest players in the game. … We’re trying to help people understand this amazing story that I think embodies the American spirit. America didn’t want them to play baseball, but American spirit allowed them to overcome that.”

And though the major leagues and Negro Leagues were separate back in the day, MLB is collaborating with the museum now, with a $1 million donation and new partnership just announced. “I’m still smiling,” Bob says. “We’ve had a longstanding relationship, and it wasn’t the first time they stepped to the plate, but the first time we sat down and strategically said, we want to put down a partnership to address certain things … not being looked at as just another (charity).”

One big thing they’re addressing: “Issues related to the decline of African-Americans playing this great sport.” In the ’70s, the major leagues were more than one-quarter Black … now, that is down to less than seven percent: 62 American-born Black players currently, Bob says.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, he says, can inspire Black athletes to rediscover the sport, via not just the museum in Kansas City but also its traveling exhibitions and other educational endeavors, “where they can walk into this environment and see people who look just like them.” Not just players, but also, Bob points out, owners and managers and coaches – African Americans “did everything to fulfill the business of playing baseball … We want them to be exposed to the other opportunities that they might never have been introduced to otherwise, to know there’s a legacy of being successful. … We want them to fall in love with baseball.”

Bob also hopes to encourage MLB to celebrate its heroes the way the Negro Leagues did in their day. You never forget your heroes, your favorite players, he notes – his, for example, is Hank Aaron (now 83).

But it’s not just about heroes – it’s also about everyone. “I think it’s important for our sport that everyone has the opportunity to participate … it was a blue-collar sport back in its today; today it’s a country-club sport. It gets to be extremely expensive to play … league fees, traveling teams, priced out a lot of kids. Somewhere along the line came a detachment from the African American community with this sport (but) it was THE sport in its day. We have to make baseball again what kids want to instantly think about being a part of.”

Back to the film. More than 15 years in the making, we observe. Gary says one of the reasons he retired from teaching in 2012 was to finish the film.

Clay adds that one of its best parts, he thinks, is the students who were involved 17 years ago now “looking back, contributing their experiences … they are adults now and talking about how meaningful it was to them.”

Bob agrees. “It’s almost better that (they’re talking about it) 17 years later – When you look back, you change as an individual, your thought process (changes) to get that perspective … I think it means a whole lot more.”

Gary points out that all the video in the film was shot by the students, and there were some “candid comments.” You’ll see that in the first part of “Legends of the Road.” And you’ll marvel at what they achieved – “they raised money for this … learned how to write sponsorship proposals. 21 people, 71 days, riding bicycles, without a missed deadline or a missed place. There’s not a lot of professional production companies that could have done that.”

The late Seattle Public Schools Superintendent John Stanford (himself an African American trailblazer) was the inspiration for teaching “opportunities to raise money besides candy sales …
that they were able to uncover this (history) and identify 600 towns where the Black players played … and the old baseball cards …” Gary still marvels at the fact his then-students accomplished so much in what was still the internet’s infancy, doing interviews by phone, for example – and yet they also created a website for the project, in some places during their tour, “digging into the walls to connect the phone line.”

All three men assure us that you will see the determination of the students in “Legends of the Road,” as well as the amazing history on which they shone a light. And Gary points out that “these are not honor-roll kids who did it, just a bunch of (regular) kids – they had a lot of challenges and they met them. You watch this, and part of it is kind of amazing, when you see the classroom and the context,” and Buck O’Neil’s visit. That’s “another reason to watch,” we’re told – his stories.

In all, Gary’s students had at least 70 hours of interviews with the players who barnstormed, and that’s also vital oral history for the Negro Leagues Museum. Bob says, “I get a little emotional every time I see (“Legends of the Road”)” – his old friend Buck sees a photo of one of the Kansas City Monarchs teams he was on, and he realizes he was the only one in the photo who was still alive.

But via projects like this, and the museum in KC, “the legacy lives on.”

Tuesday night, you can help celebrate two legacies – not only that of the Negro Leagues barnstormers, but also that of the Admiral Theater’s historic (1940s) murals – by going to the screening. Bob Kendrick and Gary Thomsen will be there, along with several of Thomsen’s former students, available for questions after the 6:45 pm screening ($20 admission) or at a VIP pre-screening event ($100 donation). Tickets to both will be available at the door, or buy your 6:45 pm ticket online here.

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TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE MOVIES! NY Dog Film Festival coming to Admiral Theater Mon, 26 Jun 2017 01:46:12 +0000
(Photo courtesy New York Dog Film Festival)

Another special movie event to look forward to this summer: The second annual New York Dog Film Festival will stop at West Seattle’s Admiral Theater on Sunday, August 6th. And part of the proceeds will benefit West Seattle-based Furry Faces Foundation. Here’s the announcement F3 shared today:

Following its overwhelming success last year in Seattle, and its national tour to 10 cities in 2016, the NY Dog Film Festival will be traveling to 48 cities this year. The 2nd Annual NY Dog Film Festival™ is returning to Seattle on August 6, 2017, at the Historic Admiral Theater, with two programs of completely new films at 3 PM and 5 PM. Dogs will be welcome in the theater, once again delighting the avid dog lovers of Seattle and proving the Festival’s own mission of showing how remarkable the bond is between dogs and their people.

Perfect for dog lovers of all ages, the NY Dog Film Festival™ will feature two programs, each of which features a different medley of documentary, animated and live-action short canine-themed films from around the world. The films illuminate human-canine love and are uplifting, with happy outcomes. Each program runs approximately 70 minutes.

3:00 PM – “Outdoor Adventure with Dogs” (77 minutes)
5:00 PM – “Who Rescued Whom?” (74 minutes)

NY Dog Film Festival™ Founder/ Director Tracie Hotchner, a well-known pet wellness advocate and author of The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know, will bring local dog aficionados together with their dogs as “their movie dates” to share a communal experience of watching short films that celebrate the remarkable bond between people and dogs.

Tickets are $12 for humans and $5 for dogs (service dogs are free). A portion of every ticket will go to Furry Faces Foundation. Purchase advance tickets online by going here.

The Admiral is at 2343 California SW.

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‘Legends of the Road’ screening at The Admiral to raise $ for mural restoration Wed, 14 Jun 2017 19:46:40 +0000

The next big event at West Seattle’s Admiral Theater has two big reasons to be on your calendar – the film that you’ll see, “Legends of the Road,” and the cause that you’ll be supporting. From the Southwest Seattle Historical Society:

Restoration of the art-deco underwater murals of West Seattle’s Historic Admiral Theater will get a boost this summer with a one-night screening of a documentary that showcases a project by local students to salute the black baseball barnstorming phenomenon of the early 20th century.

(“Legends of the Road” trailer)

“Legends of the Road,” a feature-length, student-produced film, will be screened at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, at the Historic Admiral Theater, 2343 California Ave. S.W., sponsored by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.

The film, which won the highest audience rating at the 2017 Kansas City Film Festival, will be introduced by Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, and former teacher Gary Thomsen of West Seattle, who led the “Legends” project at Chief Sealth High School. After the film, Kendrick, Thomsen, and several of Thomsen’s former students will be available to answer questions.

Admission will be by $20 donation, which will go to the Historic Admiral Theater mural restoration led by SWSHS. A VIP opportunity, to see the film and visit one-on-one with the featured speakers beforehand, will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the theater. This opportunity is available by reservation at a $100 donation.

Both levels of tickets can be purchased online via Far Away Entertainment and at the door.

The Admiral’s murals were revealed during its recently completed renovation process. SWSHS says the mural-restoration campaign will include more special events, as well as details on how proposals for restoration will be sought.

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VIDEO: Admiral Theater ‘grand reopening’ celebration, report #2 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:04:08 +0000
(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.

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REPORT #1: ‘Four Screens, Four Eras’ special night @ Admiral Theater Thu, 23 Mar 2017 02:22:15 +0000

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!

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‘THE SHIP SAILS AGAIN’: Admiral Theater celebration announced for March 22nd Sat, 11 Mar 2017 00:29:40 +0000

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.

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Hoping to see ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ in West Seattle? Wed, 14 Dec 2016 20:48:18 +0000 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.”

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FOLLOWUP: Admiral Theater’s 2nd new auditorium now open; 3rd and 4th expected within weeks Thu, 24 Nov 2016 23:46:48 +0000 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.

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