Lewis and Clark Theatre

15820 Pacific Highway S,
Tukwila, WA 98188

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Lewis & Clark demolition

Located in Tukwila, to the south of Seattle, and close to Seattle Airport. Opened on November 20, 1956 with Audrey Hepburn in “War and Peace”. The theatre is part of an entertainment complex that has a now-closed 32 lane bowling alley and cafe. The theatre appears to have been one screen originally with its balcony divided into two auditoriums of maybe 300 seats each. The main auditorium still has maybe 1,000 seats or more. An additional hallway with four auditoriums, two approximately 400 seats and two approximately 200 seats, was later added. The main auditorium(#1) has murals by decorator Anthony B. Heinsbergen, depicting Lewis, Clark, and Native Americans filling the side walls.

Currently, it is fairly well kept up even though its business is slow. It was one of the first I know of in the area to advertise SDDS sound. It had a huge parking lot that is now being made into airport parking.

An interesting note is that a former major highway, Military Road, ends in the theatre’s parking lot due to the re-routing of the road with the construction of a section of freeway adjacent to the theatre probably in the 1970’s.

The Lewis and Clark Theatre was closed by Cineplex-Odeon in January of 2004, and briefly served as a church until the auditorium was demolished in 2005. The former lobby is used by a car rental company.

Contributed by ladanae

Recent comments (view all 41 comments)

ColinMarcoe on June 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Oops, I meant “What great photos from CinemaTOUR”!

rivest266 on January 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Grand opening ads from November 20th, 1956 and December 16th, 1982 (as 7-plex) posted in the photo section.

Parillamilt on August 18, 2012 at 1:05 am

This complex was a monster. Saw 2001 and Patton here when it was just a single theater. The bowling alley was huge.

bubbabear64 on March 19, 2014 at 11:01 pm

An elegant movie theater built at a time when Sterling made grand theaters in the suburbs to replace the declining use of city theaters as well as smaller neighborhood theaters due to the increase of television use. Not only did the theater provide swinging seats, but the balcony had a reserved section in the first few rows used for people that came in late to the movie so that they didn’t cause that much of a distraction (even though the area was supervised by ushers and swinging gates. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was the first movie I saw in the theater. I still remember the original glass enclosed box office. It went away when the 1982 remodel was finished.

The bowling alley was just as elegant as the movie theater was. It was built in 1960 and it used the white Brunswick design with the dual lane configuration that was known for it’s artistic design for the time as demonstrated in this You Tube video: http://youtu.be/53V5S5Bd2KA. It wasn’t upgraded to the 2000 automatic scoring system until the 1980s. They still kept the same design to the lanes (they didn’t switch to the current style or the color organ version). During the 1990s, the lanes were shut down. It was done about the same time that SRO took over Sports World Bowling Alley in Federal Way to keep it running as a recreation center (it had about the same number of lanes as well as a bar, racquetball, and a dance floor built in 1977).

By the time the 1970s came, many factors didn’t work in the theaters favor including: Expansion of SR518 (an additional theater sign was added off of the freeway since the large sign wasn’t visible anymore), additional multiplex theaters in Tukwila and Renton (including the original single screen, Southcenter Theater SRO owned), elimination of neighborhoods in the immediate area (due to aircraft noise and expansion of the airport), and prostitution/drug activity (even though the WSP had a field office on the corner).

During the 1980s, the crime continued. With Gary Ridgeway driving his truck in this strip of 99 couldn’t have been favorable to business. By the 1990s, violence happened in the parking lot after a few movie openings scheduled on the site along with cars being broken into, didn’t make the place a very safe environment to take the family to the movies or bowling anymore. The last movie I saw in the theater was Star Trek 6 on opening night (12/7/91).

With the addition to the Sound Transit light rail terminal in Tukwila, this theater would have been in a bad location and with it’s outdated design, it couldn’t have competed with other multiplex theaters around the Tukwila/Renton area effectively. Now that AMC owns the theater chain, their interest has been keeping movie theaters running in malls and shopping centers which they have a major presence of in the area.

It’s nice to see that the property has been integrated into airport use to prevent the car rental companies from typing up the second floor of the airport parking garage.

I wish I had some photos of the bowling alley when I was learning to bowl in there. They don’t build them like that anymore.

davidcoppock on November 10, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Opened on 20/11/1956 with “War and peace”.

davidcoppock on November 10, 2018 at 6:29 pm

The site is possibly still vacant?

Seattleprojectionist on November 12, 2018 at 5:19 pm

The site remains as the parking lot, office, and service facility for a rental car company. Only the original 1950’s auditorium was demolished. The original lobby and the 1980’s addition have been remodeled and remain in use by the rental car company.

davidcoppock on November 13, 2018 at 1:47 am

Did Lewis and Clark visit this area?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 15, 2018 at 12:47 am

I don’t think they got any closer than the mouth of the Columbia River.

mikeb99 on March 20, 2020 at 5:21 am

Sad what happened to this once great movie theatre. I have a lot of memories from this place. I worked here from 10th grade through my first year of college from 72' to 76'. I did almost every job you can imagine here and some you probably can’t. I started cleaning the gardens and eventually wound up as the head doorman/usher. As a HS Senior I had my own key to the place and often had to be the first one there in the afternoon to put away all the concession deliveries, turn on lights, check for burned out lights, etc. In 72'/73' during the gas shortages the place became a magnet for gas thieves and they put me on the roof with binoculars and a walkie talkie on Fri & Sat nights to help the security team watch the huge parking lots… with my help they caught about half-a-dozen gas thieves and a couple of car prowlers that summer. I worked on the night crew cleaning the theatre after the last show ended around 1am. That was a HUGE job on big movie nights when the place was sold out. The auditorium was so huge we used to play frisbee in there on the night shift lunch break. I kicked my share of kids/trouble makers out of there too… people didn’t realize it, but the screen was not solid… it had tiny little holes in it, and there was a back route to it so you could stand behind it and see out into the audience.. made for great fun! I saw all the great movies of the 70’s here DOZENS of times… many of them would sell out the 3,000 seat place on the weekends. Blazing Saddles, What’s Up Doc?, The Exorcist (lots of people couldn’t handle it and walked out), Sound of Music, 2001 Space Odyssey, Marathon Man, Clockwork Orange, Smokey and the Bandit, Harry In Your Pocket, Billy Jack, too many to remember. Ultimately, the place almost killed me… literally. I was on the crew working to change the front sign one night in July 73' and the title was really long – “Reader’s Digest Presents The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer And Huckleberry Finn”… and I lost track of where I was and walked right off the end of the cat walk and fell 15 feet on to my head on the pavement below. I got 50 stitches and 5 fractured vertebra in my neck from that adventure!

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