Roxy Theatre

504 South 3rd Street,
Renton, WA 98057

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View from the east

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The Roxy Theatre opened in 1942. In its later years it operated as an East Indian cinema until around 2001. The theater was in serious need of repair and restoration work. It is now in use as a church.

Contributed by Ken Layton

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

JimRankin
JimRankin on May 27, 2004 at 4:57 am

It is amazing how many theatres are named ROXY in imitation of the once famous name of the New York City panjandrum of the movie palace: Samual Lionel Rothapfel = “Roxy”. His namesake was the famous ROXY THEATRE in NYC, which outlasted him by only 25 years when it was demolished in 1960. The whole story is in that landmark book “The Best Remaining Seats: The Story of the Golden Age of the Movie Palace” by the late Ben M. Hall in 1961. Various editions of it are sometimes available from www.Amazon.com, but only the first edition contains the color plates.

paghat
paghat on July 7, 2005 at 12:30 pm

There was another cinema right straight across the street from the Roxy called the Renton Theater (today designed Renton Civic Theater but it doesn’t show films). In the late 1960s these theaters were already scummy but it was quite an “event” for teenage film fans because there’d be two cinemas worth of patrons (mostly young) filling the sidewalks & sometimes even blocking the street before & between shows, & even kids who weren’t going to see any films showed up with their skateboards (Renton did not have much after-hours traffic to worry about, other than people coming to the two cinemas). The street between the two theaters became a defacto teen hang-out area. But in the 1980s the then-owner of both cinemas, Roger Forbes, turned them into porno houses.

In the 1990s the Roxy was entering its sixth decade of existance & was managed by Arif Azhar who played only Indian films, & it was the only Indian filmhouse in King County, so Seattle’s Indian restaurant community would arrange group auto journeys to Renton. Absolutely no upkeep had been done for the place, but it was glorious to have such access to Bollywood musicals.

In recent years there has been some attempt to preserve the old Roxy as a historical site. It’s crummy architecture & no great loss if it comes down frankly, but Renton does not have much of the original town left, & it would be a nice bit of nostalgia even though it was never one of the movie palaces, it was second-rate from the day it was built. www.weirdwildrealm.com

chinapet
chinapet on September 7, 2005 at 6:00 pm

How amazing to come across this site after all these years! There used to be another theatre about a block down from the Renton called the Rainier Theatre. Damage suffered in the 1965 earthquake closed that theatre for good and it became a parking lot.

I remember because these theatres were in my family from 1920(something), when my great-grandfather, Ben Fey, built them – until 1978, when my grandfather finally gave in to the growing cinemaplexes and sold. I remember vividly how he refused to sell to anyone showing pornography. Thankfully it was after his death that the Theatre finally succumbed to that seedy fate. I believe it was during this time that the theatre lost much of the remaining original beauty.

When I was young, I remember two major remodeling projects on the Roxy. I can’t remember the years, but I do remember the last one being a valiant effort to compete with the first cinemaplex to open in Renton (I can’t even remember the name of it!).

I have many pictures passed down to me of the theatres – being built and throughout various ages, along with many stories if anyone is interested!!

SandraL
SandraL on June 14, 2006 at 10:32 am

I hope someone can save this theatre. About 20 years ago, I was part of the live-audience Rocky Horror Picture Show cast there on Friday and Saturday nights. (You know…the geeks that get up and act out the movie in front of the screen? Yeah, that was us.) It really is an amazing place; yes, in desperate need of repair, but with some of the original art-deco still in place. (I hope the attempt to turn it into a church didn’t destroy all of that.) It actually wouldn’t take much to turn it into a live theatre or general-purpose performance hall for the city of Renton – which, frankly, could use a little more old-school class in its buildings.

JonasClarkElliott
JonasClarkElliott on July 22, 2006 at 3:23 am

Chyna, you left no contact information. I’m working with the Renton Historical Society to mount an exhibit about the Roxy, complete with original fixtures and a replica of thne sign. If you can contact either them at 235 Mill Ave. S. or me at , help, photos, storied and details would be a great help. And from a Fey relative? Can’t get any better than that.

Dav1dJeffers
Dav1dJeffers on October 22, 2006 at 11:35 am

Update: October 2006
What was formerly the Renton Roxy, has been converted into a ‘for-rent’ hall, used primarily as a storefront church. When the building was last sold several years ago, the buyer did donate the vertical marquee to the city, but it’s unclear if it could ever be restored. The void was covered with sheets of oriented strand board and painted beige, along with the rest of the facade. All of the ornamental lighting was removed and the original ticket booth was quickly ripped out and thrown away (it could have been saved with the marquee), replaced by a landscape border brick planter with plastic plants in the same footprint. The Roxy was our local neighborhood theater and is sorely missed. Single screen theaters are rare as hen’s teeth these days and the Roxy struggled on far longer than anyone expected. Our alternatives in Renton are the eight screen Renton Cinemas about a mile away, and the East Valley 13, located in industrial South Renton. The City of Renton recently built a multimillion-dollar performing arts center as part of the renovation of Renton High School two blocks north of the Roxy. Adjacent to the old theater, the city has created an urban center over the past decade which includes an urban park, a multi-level parking structure, a large single floor building with a high bow-truss ceiling (formerly part of a car dealership) that was converted into a multi-use facility, and a bus transit center. The goal of city planners was to create a new heart in the old commercial downtown core. Throughout this development, historic structures have been demolished (very few remain in Renton), replaced by large apartment blocks and commercial structures, resulting in fundamental character changes to the neighborhood. The Roxy has avoided demolition, so far, but this result seems inevitable in an environment of small town politics, driven by greedy developers and sorely lacking intelligent planning or social responsibility.

JonasClarkElliott
JonasClarkElliott on September 19, 2007 at 3:53 am

The Roxy marquee was in terrible shape and was not saved, nor were the letters on the vertical section which were rusted badly. The man who converted the theatre threw all the neon tubes (which I had sorted and tested) into the trash. As you can see in the above photo, the vertical and upper horizontal sections are in place, but they removed the ladders up the sizes, presumably because they were for servicing the sign (they were secure, too – I climbed them constantly, and I weigh 200+) A stupid move, as they were the only safe way to the roof! Yes, there’s also a ladder inside the vertical for servicing the transformers and wiring, and it was secure enough when I worked there, but now…? The entire vertical is dryrotted plywood covered in metal screening which had been sprayed with concrete for surface, and at the top of the ladder is a cramped mechanical room which offers access onto the roof only for someone who wants to squeeze around a large duct.

Yes, the ticket booth is gone, but the Historical Society has the ticket machine, the peacock’s tail off the roof (it has been restored and is on display in the museum) some of the light fixtures (anything that wasn’t left intact is either with them or with me) the telephone from the projection booth, and the mechanical flasher from the peacock’s tail (that’ll be returning to me for restoration)

Amazingly, the current owner undid all Kurt’s (former owner) botched remodeling jobs – AND rewired the entire building, bringing wiring and plumbing up to code. If only someone coul;d buy it from the owner, also the pastor and a real estate guy, it could be restored. If you have any questions about the place, possible I can answer them, as I worked there doing restoration during the entire “Roxy Indian Cinema” time. My email is
~ Jonas Clark-Elliott

billwhite
billwhite on September 23, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Chyna,
I am working on a book in which Seattle movie theaters play a significant part. If you have any pictures or stories on the Roxy, Renton, and Rainier between the years 1957-1961, I would be very appreciative. You can contact me through
Thank you….
Bill

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm

This item is from the September 9, 1936, issue of The Film Daily:

“Fey’s Roxy is the name selected for the modern new theater now being completed at Renton, for Ben and Erwin Fey.”
The house must have opened before the end of 1936, but I haven’t found it mentioned in later issues of the magazine that year.

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