Lewis and Clark Theatre

15820 Pacific Highway South,
Tukwila, WA 98188

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Showing 1 - 25 of 35 comments

bubbabear64 on March 19, 2014 at 4:01 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 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm

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 8:54 am

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 2:25 pm

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

ColinMarcoe on June 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm

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 12:57 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 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm

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 6, 2009 at 8:24 pm

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

ajsloan on July 6, 2009 at 5:08 am

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

jmsazboy on July 6, 2009 at 2:57 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 25, 2009 at 11:22 pm

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 1, 2009 at 10:42 pm

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 1:52 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 10:22 am

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

kateymac01 on July 22, 2007 at 11:03 pm

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 22, 2007 at 11:03 pm

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

spencer911 on July 9, 2007 at 7:38 pm

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 8:56 am

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.

Lumen on April 14, 2006 at 9:30 pm

P.S I forgot to mention That Dad was an excellent painter, he worked in SRO’s graphics dept. also, likening the possibility it was him, Im almost certain he must have helped if it had been the lady mentioned.The original owner did care, he visited my father at home once when he was not doing well. Allet

Lumen on April 14, 2006 at 9:17 pm

My father was manager for most of the 60’s.During its heyday it was full of life & light.Dad took pride in his work & was enthusiastic about new feature promotions(Camelot,Dr.Zhivago,ect.)Saturday matinees had a live clown who once flopped over & played dead for the whole movie(must’ve been a good nap!)They had prize giveaways, some lucky Kid won a pedalcar,but not before my sisters & I drove it on those great carpeted ramps W/cement horsehead.Ira,the projectionist was happy to give a tour of the booth I remember being fasinated.My mother thinks my father painted the murals, he passed some time ago,so I dont know for sure. Growing up there greatly enriched my life. Thank you, Allet Jr.

natnmik on October 31, 2005 at 1:21 pm

I can sympathize with “bluejack’s” horrendous “Spiderman” experience at the Lewis & Clark toward the end of its life, but what made this theatre a treasure is what it was, not what it became. But it sounds like the treasure had already turned to trash by the end, and I’m sure there was no going back.

I went to this theatre almost every week between the years of 1963 and 1966. Then it was truly a rather “posh” mid-century modern movie palace in its own way. Even if it wasn’t the ornate sort of Hollywood movie palace of the 20s and 30s, it was still a far cry from the utilitarian black-box multiplexes of today. Yes, there was only one very large screen. You walked up a long plushly-carpeted curving incline to get to the theatre, and it split halfway up and another long curve went up to a very spacious balcony. The theatre was always impeccably clean, and the seats were comfortable.

I couldn’t even think of listing all the great early 60s movies I saw there. The original “Pink Panther” and “The World of Henry Orient” both with Peter Sellars, “Charade” with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, just to name three.

Movie audiences — not yet in the habit of watching most of their movies in their own living rooms — were just a tad more civilized then. There were ushers, who stood in the back of the theatre during the showings, and if anybody talked out loud during the movie or created any other type of commotion, they got a talking-to, and were summarily “ushered” out if they didn’t shape up.

Yeah, the Bowling Alley was pretty blue-collar, but so was my family. We used to often go there after the show and have a burger and fries, and it was quite a treat.

I’m glad I never saw the sub-divided horror they turned it into.

kateymac01 on September 9, 2005 at 9:42 pm

Does anyone have demolition photos? I’d love to see them.

paghat on July 7, 2005 at 10:08 am

The Lewis & Clark was considered fairly lower-class venue even in its heyday when it had but one screen; people who remembered movie palaces (or were able to attend one or another of the few remaining movie palaces) lamented this new suburban look for theaters alongside stripmalls. After it was turned multi-screen it lost whatever slight charm it once had. Originally it was painted throughout with murals about the Lewis & Clark Expedition, painted by a local muralist who history seems to have forgotten, but who in the 1950s & 1960s & early 1970s had her murals in A&P Grocery, The Spanish Castle dance club, the Pioneer Village restaurant in Federal Way (on the inner walls of authentic pioneer homes that had been moved to a single spot as a tourist attraction that failed big time), & all manner of businesses most of which have since been demolished.

With renovation to turn the Lewis & Clark multiplex, some portions of the murals remained, interupted by new walls. By the late 1980s the place always smelled bad & was an eyesore inside & out, & when during its last gasp it came to be used as a hillybilly revivalist christian enclave, it was obvioiusly time to tear it down. It was never in the running for any kind of architectural treasure, it was “early stripmall” all the way, a semi-enclosed complex that was a precursor to the wholly enclosed malls to follow.

I think the only nostalgia anyone can feel for it is that it was a hang-out for sub-working-class teenagers who would accumulate in or around the bowling alley (but never bowl) & there’d be minor “rumbles” in the parking lot & the sixteen year old boys would bully & beat the crap out of the thirteen year olds, & junior highschool girls would have their first sex acts with junior-college boys in that parking lot, then sometime after midnight the cops would harrass all the kids who’d go home & come back the next weekend. But in the 1970s when the first big enclosed mall was built (Southcenter), it marked the end of the Lewis & Clark parking lot as even a teen hangout, & seriously, it might as well have been torn down way back then.

larryprice on June 28, 2005 at 6:38 am

I think I might have been the “someone else” referred to above. I am also the Union projectionist that replaced Mike Bridgham in 1996. I stayed for less than a year before I also quit in disgust. When I had worked in this theatre under the previous ownership in the early and mid 1980’s; it was a spotlessly clean, well run showplace. Good management, good projection booth operation, and ownership that was willing to pay what it cost for a first class operation. All this changed in December of 1985 when the theatre was sold to a large chain by the family owned circuit that had built it. When I returned in 1996, it was a completly different operation. Cheapness ruled in every aspect of the operation, and it was not a nice place to work.

ArthurAllen on June 26, 2005 at 10:04 am

They have indeed started to demolish the theater. They have started from the west side, claiming the four new theaters and the old split-level balcony. All that is left is the front of the first auditorium and some Lewis and Clark murals on the walls. Someone else was taking pictures there today too. I’ll post my picture when I get it developed.

I remember seeing the first Superman and Star Trek movies in the big auditorium in great 70mm, and barely seeing Apollo 13 in very dim Cinemascope. They showed Beverly Hills Cop in very narrow full frame 35mm because they had previously shown a revival of Pinocchio and had neglected to change back to the proper aspect ratio.