924 West Garland Avenue,
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Garland Theater (Official)
Previously operated by: W A Simons Company
Firms: Funk, Molander & Johnson
Functions: Movies (Second Run)
Styles: Streamline Moderne
When the Garland Theater opened in November 1945 with just under 1,000 seats, it was the premier movie house in the west. According to the Spokane Sentinel newspaper, “There is nothing like it on the Pacific coast, even in Los Angeles, it is 20 years ahead of Spokane”. One of the main attractions for youngsters at the opening was the snack bar, said to be “an innovation in the field and an import directly from Hollywood.” The Spokane Daily Chronicle of 11/9/1945 stated “Garland Theatre to open November 21” It lists Funk, Molander & Johnson of Spokane as the architects. (The death notice for Arthur Harvey Funk , architect, in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on 9/26/1986, cites the Garland Theatre as one of his notable projects.)
Showing on opening night was a double feature: “It’s a Pleasure” (starring Sonia Henie) and “Double Exposure”. The luxurious lobby was filled with baskets of flowers from studio well-wishers along with congratulatory telegrams from Bing Crosby, Carry Grant, Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope, Ginger Rogers and Eddie Cantor. The lobby floors were covered in rose colored carpet, brown oak walls and a purple and lavender ceiling set above center columns of dark purple tile.
The large auditorium featured stadium-style seating and an original capacity near 1,000 (currently 630), as the seats have gotten larger and the rows were extra-wide, designed so that people could leave their seats without disturbing others. The walls were powder blue and Italian red and said to feature “germicidal lamps” to keep the air purified.
An innovation in marketing at the time was to have a record and gift shop at the theatre, and the Garland was no exception: as the music faded from the screen, a slide was shown informing patrons that they could purchase the music they just heard right there at the theatre.
The Garland Theater closed briefly in the early-1960’s with the owner saying that it “had everything but customers”. According to the Spokesman Review it survived a brief period as an X-rated movie house and then stood empty from May 1986 to November 1988, when Don Clifton reopened it as the first discount theater in Spokane. The concept caught on, and 1995, the Garland Theater marked its 50th anniversary with a 3-D showing of “Creature from the Black Lagoon”.
Katherine Fritchie purchased the theater in 1999 and has been working to restore the theater to its original splendor and modernize the sound and projection systems while retaining the family-friendly atmosphere and price.
The Garland Theater has a great web site with lots of photos and details.
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