Nifty Theatre

201 W. Locust Street,
Waterville, WA 98858

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Nifty Theatre

This old wooden theatre has been restored and was supposedly open, but the last information I can find is from 2002. I’m not sure whether it shows movies, or is a community center. The marquee is very old fashioned and small, and is inside the front doors. It had closed by 2018.

Contributed by Seth Gaines

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 31, 2005 at 12:49 pm

Listed in the Film Daily Yearbook 1941 edition as having a seating capacity of 290.

sjohnTac
sjohnTac on September 2, 2008 at 8:50 pm

The Nifty is a real gem inside. It operates for movies when there’s a community fundraiser or desire; same for drama productions. The owner, James Dixon, is a theater enthusiast and has put a lot of work into restoring & maintaining this building. It has a historic, handpainted backdrop and exotic landscape scenes painted in the ceiling coves. The old vaudeville pit is still visible.

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on August 25, 2018 at 10:52 pm

The Nifty appears to be closed as of July, 2018 and Waterville is a ghost town. The area still has a considerable amount of charm and is nested in a picturesque location.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 1, 2018 at 2:01 am

Waterville probably isn’t a ghost town, given that Trulia currently lists several houses for sale at prices from $235,000 (new construction) up to $686,000. The census bureau estimated the population as of 2016 at 1,181. The town’s web site is certainly very much alive.

Although most web sites say that the Nifty Theatre was built in 1918 and opened in 1919, I found a brief item in Motography of November 4, 1916, saying “[t]he Nifty Theater in Waterville is installing new equipment.” Indeed, the Nifty Theatre was listed at Waterville in the 1914-1915 American Motion Picture Directory.

While it’s possible that the Nifty Theater of 1914 and 1916 was in a different location, it seems just as likely that the original theater could simply have been rebuilt in 1918. This PDF from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, published in 2008, has information about many of the state’s historic theaters, and the section devoted to the Nifty says that “… according to the owner [the theater] was burned during construction. Portions of the stage framing and exterior walls are charred.” It seems entirely possible that the original Nifty suffered a fire in 1918 but its framing survived and the theater was rebuilt.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 1, 2018 at 2:07 am

By the way, the PDF I linked to has a nice interior photo of the Nifty’s auditorium. It’s quite a handsome room, with some nice detailing very characteristic of the 1910s. No reclining seats, though. Sorry, kids.

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