< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >
Liberty Theatre in Everett opens on October 27, 1926.
HistoryLink.org Essay 8812
: Printer-Friendly Format
On October 27, 1926, Ray E. Connell opens the Liberty Theatre at 2822 Wetmore Avenue in Everett. A small motion picture house, the venue seats around 450 patrons and represents an expenditure of between $10,000 and $15,000. Although the new venue has a sizable opening night crowd, the Liberty will ultimately be a short-lived venture in downtown Everett, operating for a mere two and a half years.
To Everett Via Aberdeen
Ray E. Connell originally ran a plumbing business in Hoquiam when, in the late teens, he decided to sell out and get into motion-picture exhibition. He started slow and faced heavy competition in the Hoquiam/Aberdeen market, but did well for himself nonetheless. After only a few years of operation, Connell had two small Hoquiam theaters among his holdings.
But in late 1923, Connell and his business partner, Henry Newman (operating under the banner of Sun Motion Pictures Company), sold their venues to the Aberdeen firm of Dolan & Ripley, owners of many large movie theatres in Grays Harbor County. After a three-month vacation in California, Connell returned to Aberdeen and began work on what would become the Connell Theatre.
In the process, however, he got into a very public spat with the city of Aberdeen, which had taken recent steps to limit the number of movie theaters in that city. Connell eventually won the battle -- not necessarily because he was right, but because he packed the fall Mayoral and City Council elections with sympathetic supporters. When these candidates swept November 1924 elections, the last hurdle was cleared for Connell to get his namesake theater opened to the public.
The victory for Ray E. Connell was a brief one, however. Within seven months of the opening of Aberdeen's Connell Theatre, he sold the house to Elbe Theatres, Inc., a company backed by Warner Bros. that had also recently acquired houses in Ellensburg and Astoria, Oregon. For his next business endeavor, Connell found himself in Everett.
A Quick Fix?
Connell sold out for a quick profit in Aberdeen, and that also may have been his strategy in Everett. The Liberty was a small movie house, seating only 450, and had been remodeled from a prior commercial space for the relatively low amount of $10-15,000 (cost estimates varied in newspaper accounts). According to Everett theater historian David Dilgard, the Liberty was an independent house specifically designed as an "irritant" to Charles A. Swanson, who owned the majority of Everett's theaters at the time.
Although the Liberty played to crowded houses on opening night (The Belle of Broadway [Columbia, 1926], starring Betty Compson [1897-1974], was the main attraction), Dilgard contends that the Liberty's ownership expected Swanson to make a play for the theater, if only to maintain his control over Everett's movie houses. Lending credence to this notion, perhaps, is the fact that Ray E. Connell doesn't appear to have settled down in Everett -- the Polk City Directory for 1926-1927 gives his address as the Hotel Hoyt, at 1506½ Hewitt Avenue, less than two blocks away from the Liberty (Polk).
Connell sold out to Charles A. Swanson in early- to mid-1927, leaving Everett for parts unknown. But it wasn't long before Swanson himself sold his own theater holdings (including the Liberty) to Fox West Coast Theaters, Inc. This occurred in April 1929, and the deal sealed the fate of the Liberty Theatre -- it was officially closed on May 3rd of that year. Originally to be remodeled, the venue appears to never have reopened.
At the time the Fox forces were two weeks away from opening the new Balboa Theatre in Everett, a fully modern theater equipped with Fox Movietone sound. Given the size of the Liberty and the expense of wiring such a small venue for sound technology, it's likely that Fox simply choose to keep it closed for good.
Sumner Smith, "He Elected Mayor to Get Theatre Permit" and "Seattle," Moving Picture World, May 16, 1925, pp. 275 and 304; "Seattle," Motion Picture News, July 11, 1925, p. 221; "Seattle," Moving Picture World, July 25, 1925, p. 409; "Seattle," Motion Picture News, October 3, 1925, p. 1614; "Seattle," Motion Picture News, October 17, 1925, p.1833; "Three Theatre Openings in Northwest," Motion Picture News, November 14, 1925, p. 2376; "Everett's Newest Theater Will Open," Everett Daily Herald, October 26, 1926, p. 13; "New Motion Picture Theater is Opened Wednesday Evening," Everett Daily Herald, October 28, 1926, p. 11; "Northwest," Moving Picture World, June 4, 1927, p. 356; "Northwest," Moving Picture World, June 25, 1927, p. 602; "Fox Theater on Wetmore Avenue to Open May 20," Everett Daily Herald, April 28, 1929, p. 14; Polk's Everett and Snohomish County City Directory, Vol. 24 (1926-1927), Seattle: R.L. Polk & Co., Inc. -- 1926; David Dilgard, Milltown Footlights: The Theaters of Everett, Washington (Everett: Everett Public Library [Valley Press], 2001).
Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay
Browse to Next Essay >
Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that
encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both
HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any
reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this
Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For
more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact
the source noted in the image credit.
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided
By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins
| Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry
| 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle
| City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach
Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private
Sponsors and Visitors Like You
This essay made possible by:
The State of Washington
Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation