Tacoma Mall Twin Theatre

4302 Tacoma Mall Boulevard,
Tacoma, WA 98409

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Theater marquee

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This former single-screen cinema opened May 16, 1968 at a cost of $1 million and was the first hard-top built in 40 years when it opened.

The News-Tribune wrote at the time that the Tacoma was ‘Grauman’s, the Cathay Circle, Hollywood Boulevard and London Airport all wrapped into one and brought up to date.’

In 1974, it was split into a duplex and renamed the Tacoma Mall Twins creating a 700-seat and a 400-seat theater out of the large 1,200-seat auditorium. Over the years, the construction of multiplexes and megaplexes damaged the vitality of the theater.

In July 2002, the Tacoma Mall Twin Theatre closed after almost 35 years of delighting area audiences. With Loews Cineplex abandoning the theater, the Tacoma Mall has recently demolished the theater and built a restaurant on the site.

Another 1960’s movie palace lost forever.

Contributed by Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on April 18, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Here is a 1968 interior photo from the Tacoma Public Library:
http://tinyurl.com/d5svp7

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 29, 2009 at 12:33 am

The May 27, 1968, issue of Boxoffice Magazine announced that the Tacoma Mall Theatre had opened on May 16. Among the celebrities attending the opening were Rudy Vallee, Tippi Hedren, and Troy Donahue. The article was accompanied by a small photo of the exterior of the theatre.

The similarity of the Tacoma Mall Theatre to the slightly earlier (and larger) Lakewood Center Theatre, and the fact that both were built by the Forman family, owners of both Forman United Theatres and Pacific Theatres (operating the Lakewood Center,) would lead one to expect that both houses had been designed by the same architect. Indeed, the Tacoma Library photos linked in comments above do attribute the Tacoma Mall to architect George T. Nowak, who was the architect of the Lakewood project. However, the Tacoma photo is the only source I can find saying that Nowak designed this theater.

The problem is that I’ve also found a source (but again only one) attributing the house to a different architect, that being a Boxoffice Magazine item of August 5, 1968, which mentions in passing that architect Ben Meyer, designer of United Theatres' new 112th Street Drive-In at Seattle had also designed the circuit’s new Tacoma Mall Theatre.

I think the Boxoffice item might be in error, but can’t be positive, and I don’t know the Tacoma Library’s source for the claim that Nowak designed the house. I suppose it is possible that the similarity of the two theaters stems from requests by the Formans that two different architects provide pretty much the same design for the different theaters (perhaps getting Mayer to do a less costly knockoff of Nowak’s design for Lakewood.) Maybe somebody can come up with a third source that will confirm one or the other of the sources I found.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 18, 2010 at 1:45 am

Since posting the comment immediately above I have done more searching in Boxoffice and have found that Ben Mayer, who the magazine said had designed the Tacoma Mall Theatre, was in fact an industrial and graphics designer, not an architect.

Therefore I think it’s safe to accept the Tacoma Library’s claim that the architect of the Tacoma Mall Theatre was George T. Nowak, of George T. Nowak & Associates, architect of the nearly identical Lakewood Center Theatre in Lakewood, California, which opened a few months earlier than the Tacoma Mall house. As the Lakewood Center was designed in association with Mel C. Glatz, his firm might have been involved in the Tacoma project as well.

I’ve found Ben Mayer credited with the design of a few other theater projects, but aside from the one drive-in at Tacoma these were all remodeling or decorating jobs.

markinthedark
markinthedark on April 18, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Joe, do we know if there is a third theatre out there with this design?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Mark: I haven’t found any references to a third theater built on the model of the Lakewood and Tacoma projects, but if one was built it would probably have been built for one of the Forman companies; Forman United Theatres or Pacific Theatres. I’ll keep an eye out for evidence of such a project.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 18, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Nice Twin Theatre,but it should have stayed with one screen.

ctrwd
ctrwd on March 15, 2011 at 9:53 am

For a full view of the original theatre interior, see
http://www.cineramahistory.com/tacoma.htm

markinthedark
markinthedark on March 15, 2011 at 10:30 am

Very nice. I wish there were photos out there of the auditoriums after the split. That would bring back memories.

chadshowbox
chadshowbox on April 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm

The chandeliers have been in The Showbox in downtown Seattle since 2001.

ProfessorMoriarty1
ProfessorMoriarty1 on May 28, 2015 at 12:33 am

I remember attending services held by Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God at the Tacoma Mall Theater during 1975-1976. This ministry, based in Pasadena, started on radio in 1934 and expanded to television in the 1950’s. They put out the free magazine called The Plain Truth. The were Sabbath keepers so services were held on Saturdays. They rented the theater in the morning. I recall the pastor of the congregation was a former airline pilot named Richard Atkins. I recall it was a beautiful facility.

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