Coliseum Theater

500 Pike Street,
Seattle, WA 98101

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Coliseum Theatre auditorium

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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 facade, 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 delapidated 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.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 31 comments)

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on December 27, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Did “JIMI HENDRiX” ever play there,he was from there.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 7, 2010 at 11:26 pm

We will never see anything quite like this again; a photo taken on opening day in 1915: View link

rivest266
rivest266 on January 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm

This opened on January 8th, 1916. Grand opening ad in photo section.

paulnelson
paulnelson on May 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm

This great theatre was very elegant but was ruined inside about 1950. All the major elaborate trim was removed. Art deco style was installed. Now it is a store. Some of the ceiling and arch still exists above the store ceiling. The elaborate exterior is still the same and was restored. I never saw the orignal interior but went to the second remodel many times. Had lots of style too.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 9, 2012 at 11:38 am

An exterior photo c. 1929 can be seen here.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 11, 2013 at 5:49 pm

The January 6, 1951, issue of Boxofrfice reported that the Coliseum Theatre in Seattle had reopened following a $250,000 remodeling job that had begun the previous August. Much of the theater’s original detailing, designed in 1915 by architect B. Marcus Priteca, had been removed, as had the dome over the theater’s entrance. The architect who was responsible for this desecration of B. Marcus Priteca’s work was… well, B. Marcus Priteca. I guess that’s one of the perils of having a long career as a theater architect.

tdickensheets
tdickensheets on October 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

http://bananarepublic.gap.com/

Banana Republic

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm

What exactly is that supposed to be a link to?

paulnelson
paulnelson on November 4, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Yes the elaborate and grand original Coliseum Theatre was made a lot less elaborate and unique around 1950. Something very dramatic about viewing a film there though. Great curtain design and art deco proscenium. Big wide screen too. The auditorium was not deep but wide and one felt very close to the big screen. Probably still my favorite theatre in Seattle. Hope it is restored someday and used for stage presentations. Seattle needs another stage theatre. It just needs a stage.

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