Cameo Theatre

White Salmon, WA 98672

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Cameo Theatre

The Cameo Theatre was in operation at least through 1950 and the sibling of the Canyon Theatre in Bingen, WA. The Cameo Theatre might have been the Leo theatre which opened in the 1900’s.

Contributed by john coursey

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

JackCoursey on May 20, 2022 at 1:15 pm

Day Walter Hilborn was the architect

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 22, 2022 at 4:37 am

There were two houses called the Cameo Theatre in White Salmon. The second is a bit easier easier to trace, though I haven’t found an address for it. The March 10, 1951 issue of Boxoffice said that Larry Bristol was aiming for a May 1 opening for his Cameo Theatre in White Salmon. A March 31 item in the same journal said that the Cameo was a new house, seating 350, and was being outfitted by the B. F. Shearer Co. of Seattle. I haven’t found out how long it operated, but it was fitted for CinemaScope in 1955. In 1982 it was in use by a little theater group called the Cameo Players.

The first Cameo is a bit puzzling. It first appears in the 1937 FDY, with 247 seats. Prior to that, when White Salmon is listed in the FDY at all, it is with a 200-seat house called the Leo, a 200-seat house called the Wauna, or a house called the Dewey, with no capacity listed. The Dewey is mentioned frequently in trade journals in the mid-1920s, but doesn’t show up in the FDY until 1931 and 1932, and then never again. And yet modern documents from the city itself mention the Dewey Theatre Building, at 121 N. Main Avenue, so it is clearly remembered by that name. I thought Dewey might have been an aka for the first Cameo, but it turns out not to have been.

There is this line from a February 21, 1941 article in The Enterprise, the local newspaper: “The Cameo Theatre now occupies the site which will be remembered as the one called the Alpha Opera House, as seen in the pictures of the town taken in earlier days. It has been run by Mr. Percy since 1935.”

Then there is this photo from 1949, and I’m pretty sure a building up the block on the left has a marquee with the name Cameo over it, though it’s hard to make out. I believe that this building, which would have been at approximately 113-115 E. Jewett Boulevard, has been demolished within the last ten years. It shows up in Google street views from 2012, but not in those from 2018.

One puzzle is, were Leo Theatre and Wuana Theatre aka’s for the first Cameo, or were they aka’s for the Dewey, or was there a third theater somewhere in White Salmon? Even if the building actually started out as a theater (Alpha Opera House) it’s not impossible that it would be used for other purposes for decades and then return to theatrical use in 1935, when Mr. Percy began running the Cameo, but it could quite easily have housed the Leo and the Wuana as well. No editions of the FDY list more than one theater in operation at White Salmon at a given time.

The other puzzle of course is where was the second Cameo? I don’t see any buildings in Google street views that look like a theater from the early 1950s, and the town’s planning documents available on the Internet never mention it.

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