Lewis and Clark Theatre

15820 Pacific Highway S,
Tukwila, WA 98188

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Showing 1 - 25 of 42 comments

seraphina on October 31, 2020 at 6:02 pm

My dad, Allet Pippenger, was the Manager of the Lewis & Clark Theater during the 50/60’s (and also helped paint the murals inside), and then went on to the Music Box in Seattle. I believe he also worked at the Northgate Theater in the beginning. We use to go to work with him on some days, and would keep busy while he was getting the day at work ready. Our family were friends with Bob & Claudia Bond (former manager). Those were the days - wow!

I’m sad that the building was torn down and wish it had somehow been kept as the original auditorium, with the balcony upstairs, etc. The horse’s head at the top of the runway was very cool. We would roll down the ramps, ride a prize bike before the owner won it, hear about how the Seattle Symphony came out to play, but as time went by a lot of changes were made before it was destroyed.

Those were the hay-days! My sister and I worked there for about two years in the ‘70’s as “popcorn makers”, and sold tickets in that tiny box office. Tickets were cheap! You can’t imagine how it was with lots of customers standing in line for snacks and tickets, etc. Our father died in 1970, but the former management knew us and hired us at the time because of him. So many movies played that I couldn’t even begin to start. It was a great day back then!

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!

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.

davidcoppock on November 13, 2018 at 1:47 am

Did Lewis and Clark visit this area?

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 10, 2018 at 6:29 pm

The site is possibly still vacant?

davidcoppock on November 10, 2018 at 6:19 pm

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

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.

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.

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.

ColinMarcoe on June 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

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

ColinMarcoe on June 4, 2010 at 12:03 am

What GREAT photos from cinematreasures!! I had almost forgotten what that main auditorium and those murals looked like! It was huge! I actually saw my first R-rated movie there, “Blazing Saddles” in the mid-70’s. And for a period in the late 70’s they ran “Rocky Horror” at midnight on Fridays & Sats in Auditorum 3.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 25, 2010 at 8:57 am

Here are the additional photos of the Lewis and Clark in Boxoffice, October 19, 1957. LThe project’s ead architect, John Graham Jr., also designed the Northgate Theatre in Seattle for the Sterling circuit.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 7, 2010 at 5:31 am

A pre-renovation photo of the auditorium of the Lewis And Clark Theatre can be seen on this page of Boxoffice, June 8, 1957 (upper right corner.)

markinthedark on July 7, 2009 at 4:24 am

Moviefone still lists the theatre? Its been closed for a while…

ajsloan on July 6, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Matt, Do you remember Greg? It would have been around 1986.

jmsazboy on July 6, 2009 at 10:57 am

Joe, great pictures!! I worked there from 1986 off and on until 1993. Was great to flash back, even though the changed it since I had worked there last.

Was great to remember a time when my whole life was still in front of me.

Had a great time there.

Thanks again!!

ajsloan on March 26, 2009 at 6:22 am

I’m looking for an old friend who worked at Lewis and Clark in the 80’s. His name is Greg and he was from Auburn.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 2, 2009 at 6:42 am

The Lewis and Clark Theatre was designed by the Seattle firm of John Graham & Associates, which also designed numerous major office buildings, hotels, and shopping malls in the northwest through the first two thirds of the twentieth century. Their most famous work is undoubtedly Seattle’s Space Needle. Decoration of the theater was done by the A.B. Heinsbergen Co. The orginal single screen auditorium had 2200 seats.

The mid-century modern facade of the Lewis and Clark Theatre was featured on the cover of the March 7, 1957, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. The October 19 issue of Boxoffice that same year published three additional photos of the theatre, including two of the lobby and one showing the free-standing sign and attraction board.

The lobby was 112 feet long, with a 24x48 foot TV and smoking lounge at one end. The lobby walls were mostly glass, and fronted a broad loggia with a boxoffice that featured glass walls tapering upward to the ceiling from counter height. The exterior corners of the original building were faced with rough native stone. All of this was drastically altered when the four additional auditoriums were added to the house.

CinemaTour has 40 photos of the Lewis and Clark, all dating from after the additions.

unknownnews on May 21, 2008 at 9:52 pm

I grew up a few miles from the Lewis & Clark, and when my family or friends saw movies it was usually there. I’m sure I saw 500 movies there… And of course, even in its single-screen era it was never a fabulous movie palace, but it was so much better than any cinema I’ve seen built after the 1970s.

Mostly, what made the Lewis & Clark terrific was the ownership, management, and staff that kept the place spotless, the seats comfy and clean, the projection sharp, the service friendly, and the popcorn hot and yummy, right up until the day SRO sold it to Cineplex Odeon (or as we called it, Cineplex Odious). The broken chairs, unfocused presentation, and odd odors started within a few months of that switch, and within a year or so of the sale I gave up and started driving miles out of my way to see movies elsewhere.

My sincere thanks to Allet’s father (the 1960s manager) and projectionist Mike Bridgham for their good work. It was appreciated, and at the risk of sounding really old, it was a level of giving-a-damn that’s rarely seen any more.

markinthedark on August 21, 2007 at 6:22 pm

I was one of the few who saw “Last Action Hero” here in 70mm…

kateymac01 on July 23, 2007 at 7:03 am

And, Spencer, I forgot to add: I love your memories of Lewis & Clark. I wish I could’ve experienced that movie-going experience.

kateymac01 on July 23, 2007 at 7:03 am

Spencer … The Palomar is on here; it’s just listed under the Rex — the last name it went by.

spencer911 on July 10, 2007 at 3:38 am

I was a doorman (in a green and gold uniform) at the Lewis and Clark when I was in high school starting in 1957. At that time the theater was the pride of John Danz who owned Sterling Theaters, and was already quite elderly.
It was an enormous single-screen house with a gracious lobby, a children’s nursery with a nanny and a television lounge for patrons waiting for the film to start. In the back of the auditorium there was a sound-proofed room for people with small children and a party room that could be reserved for special family or group gatherings. It was not at all unusual for all 2000 seats to be sold-out for huge films like “Spartacus” “The Vikings” “Auntie Mame” and “Peyton Place.”
The theater managers wore white dinner jackets in summer and tuxedos in winter. The ushers wore snazzy uniforms, and people who worked the concession counter had to pass a fingernail inspection before their shift and wore washable clothes and aprons that were color coordinated with the décor. On weekend evenings there was an usher at the top of every aisle to show people to their seats.
The grounds were professionally maintained and there was a rather lavish garden of exotic looking plants on both sides of the walkway between the theater and bowl up to the box-office.
Later I became an assistant manager (got my tux and dinner jacket paid for by the company) and subsequently worked at other theaters the company owned. (One was the Palomar in downtown Seattle that I don’t see mentioned on this site. Too bad, because it was a gorgeous house.)
In those days the theater was located in a family district. It was the biggest and most successful venue for miles. The airport with its attendant problems hadn’t dominated the area. The streets around the theater weren’t havens for thugs, druggies and hookers as they are now.
In its day the Lewis and Clark was elegant and successful.

timboy219 on January 4, 2007 at 4:56 pm

I remember seeing several movies here from 2002-2004. In Theatre 1, I saw The Tuxedo, Scary Movie 3, X-Men 2, Shanghai Knights and The Core. I saw Die Another Day in Theatre 4 and Willard in Theatre 7, but never got to see a movie in Theatres 2,3,5 or 6.