It’s easy to go to Fandango and check out when Regal or Century theaters are playing which Hollywood wannabe box office hit, but to find something with more depth can take a bit of research. To make things easier, these are some of the local theaters in the South Sound area, what they have to offer, and what makes them so worth visiting:
Home to some of the most eclectic and unique businesses on this side of the Cascades, downtown Olympia wouldn’t be the same without the Capitol Theater. The building was constructed in 1924 and became the permanent establishment for the Olympia Film Society sixty years later. OFS works as a non-profit theater, screening independent, international, and classic films every day, with the occasional live stage performance. Very seldom do they show big-budget Hollywood films that make it to every Century and Regal theater in the area, but rather smaller films that introduce the community to a broader spectrum of cinema and allied arts.
Western Washington and Oregon have had the pleasure of working with McMenamin’s, a business known for acquiring historical buildings and turning them into an enjoyable recreational site for the community. The buildings are often transformed into restaurants, and many of them also make for superb concert venues and theaters. The restaurants, venues, and theaters take on the style and tone that the Northwest is known for: relaxed, comfortable, and informal. McMenamin’s opened a branch in Centralia just across the street from the train station, the Olympic Club Theater; it features a full menu of delicious food, beer, couches, tables, and other comfortable amenities with which to better enjoy a feature film. Frequently the theater shows movies that have been out for a few months, but they also show independent, art-house films as well, all for the discount ticket price of $3. The only catch is that the theater is on the other side of a bar, and minors must be accompanied by an adult.
The Grand Cinema, located in Tacoma, is yet another locally owned and operated theater offering the opportunity to enhance community knowledge and experience of film, of the art-house and independent varieties. This theater also happens to be non-profit, and a member of Experience 253, an organization dedicated to providing outlets for the community to get to know local artists and art forms within the area through museums, orchestras, film, plays, and other cultural expressions. In terms of film, TGC keeps an updated line-up of independent films, as well as film festivals, themed film series, film camps in the summer, and an Academy Awards party when it gets to be that time of the year again.
The rich history of the Blue Mouse Theater in Tacoma is just one of the many interesting quirks of the local establishment. It was constructed in 1923 and has been serving as a movie theater ever since, though under four different ownerships and names; it’s one of the oldest continuously functional cinemas in the country. Today, the building is decorated in the original fashion of stucco, brick pillars, globe light sconces, marble terrazzo, and mahogany doors. These days, the cinema shows independent, not-so-mainstream films that probably didn’t make it to any of the big theater chains. In addition to that, the theater also features the cult class The Rocky Horror Picture Show every second and fourth Saturday, combined with actors performing on stage simultaneously with the film showing in the background. The audience is encouraged to participate in accordance with tradition: throwing toast, yelling at the characters, and various other quips that the film is famous for.
Few things say “old school” like the way a drive-in theater does. Most people assume the species of theater has gone the way of the dinosaurs, but there’s a nostalgic local drive-in just a hop, skip, and a jump away. The Skyline Drive-In, located just off highway 101 in Shelton shows contemporary films in one of the most unique and enjoyable manners out there. Every night during the drier months they play a double feature for the low cost of $7, they offer concessions, and they recently upgraded to a digital projector, all while the patrons turn on their radio and watch two films on the big screen. There are less than 500 drive-ins left in the United States, but to this day they remain iconic for the classic date or the fun night out, even though they hit their peak in popularity in the 50s and 60s. For the last ten years, Skyline has also established the tradition of showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show once a year in August. Before the film starts at midnight, actors from the Blue Mouse Theater put on “The Virgin Games,” encourage audience participation in competitions, and show off their costumes. It’s fun, hilarious, it’s tradition.
Home to the Olympia Film Society