500 Pike Street,
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Architects: Benjamin Marcus Priteca
Functions: Art Gallery
News About This Theater
The Coliseum Theater opened in 1916 as Seattle’s first theater built specifically for motion pictures. Priteca would later go on to design the Paramount Theatre in Seattle over a decade later.
Built for the Pantages chain, the Coliseum Theater was monumentally Neo-Classical in style, with its gleaming white terra cotta façade, and its distinctive half-dome like marquee, which was crowned by a small domed temple, all brilliantly illuminated by lights, looking like an ancient imperial monument on Pike Street.
The interior was equally stunning, with ornate plasterwork, including busts of goddess, gargoyles and a huge lion’s head over the proscenium arch. The lobby featured imported Italian marble, lighting fixtures designed by Priteca himself, and a huge chandelier. In keeping with the Roman theme, mosaics decorated the lounges and foyer floors.
The Coliseum Theater operated as a first run house until closing in 1990, when it was forced to shut down due to decreasing business. It sat vacant and falling apart through the first half of the 1990’s, until 1995, when the dilapidated Coliseum Theater was acquired by the Banana Republic clothing store chain, and completely gutted inside, though some of its still-beautiful plasterwork was retained and cleaned and can be seen throughout the store.
The exterior was somewhat altered, its original half-dome shaped marquee having long been removed, and its replacement also being removed, in favor of a modern glass and steel awning over the main entrance. The terra cotta has been cleaned and is now dramatically illuminated at night, picking up its details, such as the medallions and floral patterns.
The Coliseum Theater is today a great example of historic preservation and adaptive reuse. The Banana Republic store closed at the beginning of the Covid=19 pandemic and the closure is permanent. The building stands vacant in August 2022. In March 2023 it was announced the former theatre would be converted into an arts space.
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