Riverside Theatre

813 W. Riverside Avenue,
Spokane, WA 99201

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 5, 2022 at 3:54 am

I’ve been unable to find a single period reference to a “Casino Opera House” at Spokane on the Internet, even though that name shows up on a number of web sites (though not here) in reference to this theater. The name even appears on the Pacific Coast Architecture Database, usually a reliable site. A theater of that name in Portland, Oregon shows up quite a few times, as does a house of that name in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, but all references to the one in Spokane are modern.

Aside from one 1891 reference, in a weekly newspaper from The Dalles, Oregon, I can’t even find a “Casino Theatre” in Spokane before the 1910s. There are many lists of theaters in Spokane from the period, but the Casino is conspicuous by its absence. For example, the 1906-1907 Cahn guide lists two legitimate house at Spokane: the Spokane Theatre and The Auditorium. It lists six vaudeville houses: La Boheme, Oberon, Comique, Edison, Washington, and Cineograph.

I suspect that The Casino building that Clemmer converted into a theater in 1907 was The Casino described on this page at the Spokane History Timeline web site. It doesn’t give the address of The Casino, and says (perhaps erroneously) that it was built in 1894, but I doubt there would have been two places called the Casino in Spokane at that time. It is described as “… a 4 story building which had a Hotel, Casino, dance hall, bar, Variety Hall, Turkish bath and even a section for down-and-outers to stay when they came to town.”

It is likely that the name Casino Opera House that shows up on some web sites is spurious, and just one of those bits of misinformation that somebody put on the Internet, after which it propagated. If contemporaries ever called it an Opera House they probably had their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. The Variety Hall that was part of the operation might have been a theater of sorts, but most likely was just a big saloon with a stage, a type of venue quite common in late 19th century America, especially in the west. It’s likely that Clemmer just gutted the building and built an essentially new theater inside the original walls.

MichaelKilgore on May 4, 2022 at 5:51 pm

A few more details. Boxoffice, Dec. 10, 1955: “Spokane, Wash. - The Granada Theatre, 813 Riverside, which has a history dating back to silent film days, has acquired a new owner and a new name - the Riverside. New owner and operator is Joseph J. Rosenfeld, president and general manager of Favorite Theatres. Announcement of the purchase came jointly from Rosenfeld and Howard D. McBride, owner and once a partner with Rosenfeld in operation of the hose. McBride took over the theatre a year ago after ending a partnership with Rosenfeld … McBride came here in 1931 as Spokane manager for Evergreen Theatres … He resigned in 1935 and purchased the Granada, formerly the Casino … McBride operated the Granada until 1946, when he formed a partnership with Rosenfeld and Favorite Theatres.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 4, 2012 at 9:37 am

An article about Spokane’s movie theaters in the July 15, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World had this to say about the Casino Theatre:

“The Casino theater was opened in 1907 by the late John H. Clemmer, a pioneer in the moving picture industry in the northwest. Upon his death in 1911, Dr. Howard S. Clemmer, his son, took it over and managed it until last year when he opened the new Clemmer theater. Will T. Reed is now managing the place, which is owned by the Clemmer estate.”