Moore Theatre (Seattle)

  • By Eric L. Flom and John Caldbick
  • Posted 5/06/2012
  • Essay 3852
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The Moore Theatre, Seattle's oldest existing entertainment venue, stood as one of the finest houses on all the West Coast when it opened in December 1907. Located on 2nd Avenue and Virginia Street, the new venue (with its attached hotel) was built by local developer James A. Moore (1861-1929) after his plans to expand and add a theater to his Washington Hotel (the former Denny Hotel) were derailed by the Denny Regrade project. Instead, he built the Moore and turned its management over to John Cort (1861-1929), who later became a prominent New York impresario. Now more than 100 years old, the Moore Theatre's stage has seen everything from vaudeville to symphony to religious revivals to hard rock and, as the Moore Egyptian, was the original home of the Seattle International Film Festival. It today retains much of its historic ambience and hosts musical artists and touring stage productions from around the world.

A Visionary Developer

James A. Moore was born in Nova Scotia and arrived in Seattle around 1886. Shortly thereafter he teamed with William D. Wood (1858-1917), who later became Seattle's mayor, to develop property in and around the city. Together they developed almost 1,000 acres in the Green Lake area, as well as another 800 acres in what is now West Seattle.

After the Wood/Moore partnership ended, Moore continued his efforts to "tame the wilds" of early Seattle, developing portions of northern Lake Union, as well as the Rainier Beach area. He was also busy leaving his mark on Seattle's downtown -- the Estabrook, Whitcomb, Chilberg, and Curtiss blocks all bore his stamp. Moore was also active in a group that backed the controversial idea of constructing a waterway that would link Lake Washington to Lake Union, and perhaps even to Puget Sound ("New Playhouse One of Moore's Great Triumphs"). This idea became reality when the Lake Washington Ship Canal opened in 1917.

James Moore's Plan A

Moore had been planning a new entertainment venue in the city for some time, and he first announced his intentions in September, 1903. He told John Cort, who was to manage the new theater, that he wanted it to be "the best in America" ("Proposed Theater Rivals Any In America") and promised publicly that it would be opened within 15 months.

Earlier that year, Moore bought the Denny Hotel, which straddled 3rd Avenue between Stewart and Virginia streets on the south summit of Denny Hill. Started shortly after the Great Fire of 1889, the hotel fell victim to partnership disputes and the financial Panic of 1893, and it sat vacant and unfinished for over 10 years. Moore completed the project, renamed it the Washington Hotel, and managed to run it at a profit for a short time. His original plan was to extend the hotel and add the theater. As John Cort, explained:

"At first Mr. Moore thought of putting a theater in his Arcade Building, but as soon as he completed his purchase of the Washington and began to figure on its extension we came to an agreement that a modern theater was to be the principal feature of the Second Avenue Building" ("Proposed Theater Rivals Any In America").

But Seattle's massive Denny Regrade project, which ultimately included the leveling of Denny Hill just north of the city's downtown core, would scotch Moore's original plans. Not immediately, however -- he fought to save his beloved Washington Hotel and apparently had some temporary success. In April 1905 it was announced that "In connection with his hotel addition and theatre ..." excavation had started and "the erection of the retaining wall against the big hill on which stands the Washington will be begun ..." ("Dirt is Being Taken From the Site of The Moore Theatre"). Clearly, at this point, Moore still had hopes for his original plan to make his new theater part of an expanded Washington Hotel. 

It was not to be. The city's regrade plan ultimately led to the complete leveling of Denny Hill, and this of course meant the demise of the luxurious hotel that sat on its summit. Moore's original plan was doomed to be, quite literally, undercut by larger civic considerations.

James Moore's Plan B

When it became clear that the Washington Hotel would soon not have a hill to stand on, Moore made new plans. He still wanted a theater, he still wanted a hotel, and he still owned the land at 2nd Avenue and Virginia Street. He would have his Moore Theater, and he would also have a hotel to go along with it. It just wouldn't be the Washington Hotel.

Nearly 18 months before breaking ground on the new project, Moore commissioned architect E. W. Houghton (1856-1927) to do the design. Houghton was one of the Northwest's premier architects. Among the more than 375 buildings he had a hand in were Moore's Arcade Building on 2nd Avenue and the Post-Intelligencer's headquarters. Seattle-based architect B. Marcus Priteca (1889-1971), who would later become one of America's foremost theater designers, began his career as a draftsman for E. W. Houghton.

Houghton also had considerable experience in theater design and had worked on venues in Bellingham, Spokane, Tacoma, Aberdeen, and Walla Walla, as well as theaters in British Columbia and Montana ("Architect Houghton Has Designed Many Theaters"). He had arrived in Seattle just before the fire of 1889 wiped out virtually all of the city's main entertainment houses, and this gave him ample opportunity to practice his architectural skills.

Houghton's plans for the Moore Theatre were both elaborate and revolutionary. He incorporated several innovative features into the interior design, none more impressive than the vast openness created by the complete absence of support posts for the theater's large balcony. Such vertical supports, which inevitably obscured the view to the stage from certain seats, were a typical if unfortunate feature of theaters of the period. In Houghton's design for the Moore,  the balcony immediately above the main floor was entirely supported by massive steel girders, the largest of which weighed almost 22 tons, that spanned the width of the house. This technique, a relatively new and untested idea in the realm of theater construction, prompted much admiring comment when the Moore finally opened for business:

"One of the most impressive features of the theater is the absence of any supports whatsoever from the floors, to either the balcony or gallery, the former being supported on an immense steel girder, five feet four inches deep and seventy-five feet long, carried in the steel construction of the side walls, the latter hung from the roof" ("New Theater is Very Beautiful").

Moore built much more than just a new theater at his 2nd and Virginia site. The theater occupied northwest corner of the first floor, but the remainder of the building extending south along 2nd Avenue was home to the six-story Moore Hotel, which is still operating today (2012).

The Lap of Luxury

The physical construction of the Moore was impressive, and the theater sported other unique features and luxurious interior trappings. There were no stairs from the lobby to the balcony level; instead there were sloping inclines that rose from the 2nd Avenue foyer. The Moore proudly boasted in the opening night program that these inclines were so wide and so gradual as "to permit an automobile to be driven into the balcony from the street" ("Program, Moore Theatre"). There is no indication, however, than anyone actually tried this. The only stairs in the theater's public areas descended to the space directly under the foyer, where the men's smoking room was located on one side and the women's lounge on the other.

The Moore's foyer was reputedly the largest of any theater in the country. Its wainscoting was of Mexican onyx, and the room was illuminated by lighting fixtures of solid brass. The floor was  exquisite marble, set in a decorative mosaic pattern. The onyx and marble were said to have cost $30,000, and the interior stucco work cost another $20,000. Adding to the look and feel of the foyer area were representations of Muses from Greek mythology, done in the Moore's general color scheme of ivory, gold, olive, and old rose. Although the house was described in the opening night program as being Gothic in nature, more than a few journalists were struck by the Pompeian influences visible in the foyer.

The carpeted areas of the house were done primarily in a rose or crimson velour (reports vary on this detail), and matched the color of the drop curtain, which was embroidered in gold. There were 26 large private boxes high along the sides of main auditorium, plus three smaller ones near floor level. The latter arrangement was unusual in that the lower boxes were simply sectioned off from the remainder of the floor seating and not cantilevered above them. Seats in both the auditorium and balcony levels were upholstered in leather.

With an official seating capacity of 2,436, the Moore was claimed by its management to be the third largest theater in the United States at the time, and the builders were careful to consider the safety needs of such a large crowd. An asbestos curtain (this was decades before the dangers of asbestos were recognized) was installed directly behind the formal drop curtain, and exits were arranged in such a manner that management made the Titanic-like boast that "the house may be cleared of people within two minutes in case of fire" ("Last Touches on Moore Theater"). Fortunately, this claim has never been put to the test.

The View from Backstage

The Moore was as impressive from a staging perspective as it was from the audience's point of view. In addition to providing the largest stage area of any theater in Seattle, the venue boasted substantial space in the wings and fly areas where props and backdrops could be stored. This allowed increased maneuverability for stagehands and made for faster scene changes. Actors, too, were spoiled when working at the Moore -- there were four large "star" dressing rooms on the main floor and an additional 16 smaller ones both in back of and underneath the stage.

The theater's electrical system was state-of-the-art for the time, and was run from a single switchboard. Touting its safety, the Moore claimed that every electrical wire was "protected against cross circuiting or other pranks which electricity sometimes plays" ("New Theater is Very Beautiful").

A Grand Spectacle

When a final accounting was made, building the Moore had cost in the neighborhood of $350,000, although estimates put the value of the land and the theater at approximately $500,000. The house was leased and managed by John Cort, who moved his first-run attractions out of the Grand Opera House on Cherry Street and directly into the Moore. Cort's son Harry served as the Moore's assistant manager.

The theater's debut was a big event for the city. A local paper, commenting on its significance, said:

"Henceforth Seattle is to be a metropolis in things theatrical, with a metropolitan theater and metropolitan attractions ... . [I]t marks the passing of the old provincial order of things and the ushering in of a regime which will make this city the Western home of drama" ("Moore Theater to Open Tomorrow Night").

On December 28, 1907, crowds swarmed the corner of 2nd and Virginia awaiting admittance to see The Alaskan, a Yukon-themed operetta that was opening for a week's run at the sparkling new theater. With a large number of "standing-room-onlies" on hand, the Moore's capacity jumped from 2,400 to somewhere near 3,000 for opening night.

The dedication in the Moore's opening program was somewhat grandiose in placing the new theater into the larger context of Seattle's history:

"The close of the year 1907 witnesses the most artistic expression of the 'Seattle Spirit' ever given since the phrase was coined ... Today Seattle is possessed of the finest and most modern theater in the great domain west of the Mississippi river."

Calling the house the "epitome of architectural elegance," the program went on to note that

"Seattle is one of the emphatic theater-going communities of the United States and it is fitting that the best the country affords in the way of entertainment should find a housing in every way adequate and up-to-date" (Program, Moore Theatre).

The Seattle Daily Times was no less enthusiastic, going as far as to class the venue among the great theaters of Paris, Vienna, and Milan ("Moore Theater is Opened to Public"). 

Early Attractions

Following its opening with The Alaskan, the Moore for the next 10 years put on varied fare. Among the entertainments appearing on its stage between 1908 and 1918 were:

  • 1908    The Seattle Symphony, which called the Moore home from 1908 to 1911
  • 1909    Ethel Barrymore (1879-1959) and George M. Cohan (1878-1942)
  • 1910    A staging of Madame Butterfly

  • 1911    Ruth St. Denis (1879-1968), a pioneer of  modern dance
  • 1912    Presentations of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Othello

  • 1914    Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) and deafblind lecturer Helen Keller (1880-1968) 
  • 1917    Ballet dancer Vaslav Najinski (1889-1950) and Ballet Russes

  • 1918    The Marx Brothers and actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923)

Separate, and Not Equal

While Houghton's design for the Moore stressed innovation, it also bowed to an odious tradition that was reflected in its architecture. Above the formal balcony there was constructed a smaller section, called the gallery, which could be accessed only from the street via an outside stairway, totally bypassing the lobby area. This had a most unfortunate purpose.

Although Seattle was a more welcoming place for African Americans than many other cities of that era, meaningful integration was still a very long way off. As did many other cities, Seattle had a vaudeville group called "The Negro Ensemble," made up of  "colored" vaudevillians, which was a popular attraction for both white and black theater-goers. The isolated gallery at the Moore -- with its separate entrance and its seats separated from the rest of the house and farthest away from the stage -- was reserved for Seattle's black audiences. Attitudes would change for the better, however, and the discriminatory use of this special-purpose gallery was eventually abandoned.

The Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit

Shortly after the end of World War I the Moore Theatre was purchased by the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit, the largest and most successful of several similar operations that toured famous vaudeville acts across the nation. These larger circuits generally owned their own theaters, and the top acts of the day would tour from one city to another. For nearly a decade, the Orpheum circuit treated Seattle audiences to some of the most famous names in entertainment, including, among many others, Jack Benny (1894-1974), Harry Houdini (1874-1926), Sophie Tucker (1886-1966), and Marie Dressler (1868-1934).

With its ornate and luxurious trappings and seating for nearly 2,500, the Moore was considered one of the finest theaters on the circuit. But its prominence ended in the summer of 1927, when the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit built a new Orpheum Theatre in Seattle at 5th Avenue and Stewart Street. It was the largest venue for films and vaudeville in the Pacific Northwest, and it became the city's new home for the circuit. With its opening, the Moore, although owned by the same company, was relegated to second-class status, and the physical plant was intentionally downgraded so as to not draw audiences away from the Orpheum. Among other insults, the portions of the luxurious private boxes that jutted into the air above the main seating area were removed. But someone was thinking ahead -- plaster casts were made of all the removed sections, and these remain in storage at the Moore to this day should anyone wish to recreate the theater's original look. The Orpheum Theatre fell to the wrecking ball in 1967.

Vaudeville's days as America's favorite live entertainment were ebbing by 1927, but the Orpheum's theft of the Moore's thunder, along with much of its audience, still hurt. Without the sure draw of famous national variety acts, the Moore was forced to return to its former and less lucrative role as a playhouse for road shows and stock-theater troupes. Just two years later, Wall Street crashed and the Great Depression set in. There seemed little hope for venues like the Moore, but it managed to struggle along until 1935 when, thanks almost entirely to the efforts of a formidable female impresario, it enjoyed a rare mid-Depression renaissance that would last for years.

Cecilia Schultz Takes the Reins

Cecilia Augspurger Schultz (1878-1971) was a pioneer promoter of the arts in Seattle who had headed the Seattle Symphony for two years and brought a series of popular matinee performances to the Olympic Hotel's Spanish Ballroom. When she first leased the Moore Theatre for one year in 1935, she explained her intentions to The Seattle Times:

"I have had the Moore Theatre in mind for over two years as an ideal home for music. It has very fine acoustics, and an atmosphere of dignity and simplicity that give the theatre rare charm and offer one the opportunity of making a fitting home for music" ("Moore Theatre Leased by Woman Impresario").

After some remodeling and refurbishment, Schultz reopened the Moore on July 29, 1935, calling her program "Cecilia Schultz Attractions." It started with a three-day run of a "dance extravaganza," which included performances of the Coppelia Ballets and the Midsummer Night's Ballets ("Extravaganza to Add to Potlatch Week"). This first season also saw performances by famed violinist Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) and the equally famous English pianist, Myra Hess (1890-1965), among other attractions.

Schultz later would start a "Greater Artist Series" at the Moore, bringing to Seattle audiences accomplished and noted actors, musicians, and dancers from both Europe and America. But her tastes were nothing if not varied, and her time of booking the Moore saw shows ranging from the well-known dancer Martha Graham (1894-1991) to the lesser-known Trudi  Shoop (1904-1999) and her comic ballet; from the Shakespearean "Old Globe Theatre Players" to a black-face presentation of Stephen Foster (1826-1864) songs and a lecture by Robert Ripley (1890-1949) of "Ripley's Believe It or Not" fame.

Cecilia Schultz had a long run at the Moore, renewing her lease every year from the premier season until finally retiring in 1949 (she would live another 22 years). The end of her reign as one of the leading impresarios the city had seen was marked by considerable sadness. As The Seattle Times reported:

"Seattle music and theatre enthusiasts note with regret the passing of the Moore Theatre as a center of cultural entertainment. It will be closed as a theatre on June 1 with the expiration of a lease. For fourteen years under the management of Mrs. Cecilia Schultz, and before that under other auspices, it has been the scene of many of the best productions in the fields of the concert, ballet and drama that have been available in the West. Seattle audiences will miss the friendly atmosphere of this community landmark, which through the years has provided so much genuine enjoyment for old and young alike" ("A Landmark's Passing").

Fittingly, the last concert Schultz staged at the Moore featured one of the most famed classical musicians of the twentieth century, the pianist Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982).

What Now?

Cecilia Schultz was a tough act to follow. Both the entertainment industry and the public's theatrical tastes had changed during her long tenure at the Moore, and the theater was a bit rudderless after her departure. A review of the advertising for the next several years indicates that the Moore paid its bills mostly by renting itself out for religious revivals, often featuring the preaching of pioneer radio evangelist Brother Ralph J. Sanders, with musical interludes provided by such Christian entertainers as "Billie Opie and His Singing Saxophone" (The Seattle Times, September 30, 1950). While these drew in the faithful and kept the doors open, it seemed a rather sad comedown from the theater's glory days under the hand of the indomitable Cecilia  Schultz.

But the resilient old showbox had yet another renaissance when, in December 1954, Seattle's Metropolitan Theatre closed its doors, and that venue's longtime manager, Hugh Becket (1922-1986), took over the Moore. He did some minor refurbishment and cleaning, and he hung a new marquee from the front façade that read "Hugh Becket's Moore Theatre." On May 24, 1955, Becket opened his run at the Moore with the Broadway musical hit The Pajama Game, and for the next few years he would bring an eclectic mix of entertainment to the theater, including more Broadway productions, well-known individual artists -- including locally produced Japanese Kabuki dance drama. During Becket's time the theater's mezzanine was converted to an art gallery and put on display works by such famous Northwest artists as Mark Tobey (1890-1976), George Tsutakawa (1910-1997), Guy Anderson (1906-1998), June Nye (1916-2003), and Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986).

Becket's tenure was to prove but a brief respite from the theater's slow decline, and after he left the Moore was reduced to eking out a rather shabby existence as a pure rental house, with various promoters bringing in a somewhat low-brow mix of everything from travel films to boxing matches. The theater's physical plant deteriorated, maintenance was deferred, and by 1974, despite being placed on the National Register of Historic Places that year, the Moore Theater was struggling to survive. One employee from that era recalled those sometimes-challenging days:

"It was boasted that the theater was the only one west of Chicago that had a manually operated stage curtain. Hardly something to brag about. One evening, when several members of the staff did not show up for work, I found myself selling tickets, closing the booth to sell candy and soda, then running down to the stage and pulling the curtains, then running back to the booth to sell more tickets to impatient patrons" (Bruce Paddock).

The Moore Egyptian

It took the efforts of two young men from north of the border to rescue the Moore from its long decline. In 1975 Darryl MacDonald, an expatriate Canadian, and Dan Ireland, an American who had been living in Vancouver B.C., for several years, leased the theater, spent several months giving it a thorough cleaning, remodeled the lobby, installed a new screen and sound system, and reopened it as "The Moore Egyptian." Their plan was to provide the public with a mixture of classic-movie revivals and foreign films. In an interview with The Seattle Times they explained the new name and format:

"It's called the Egyptian because a lot of theaters built in the 1930s were called the Egyptian -- like the one in Los Angeles and the one that used to be in the University District -- and we'd like to suggest that era ... . We'd like to show a mixture of different kinds of films, and do a good job of it ... .. Everything will be shown in the proper screen ratios, so that in the older films you won't see heads and feet being chopped off to accommodate wide screens" (What Is a Moore Egyptian?).

The theater's reopening was preceded by a multi-day series of teaser ads in the local newspapers, all featuring a dramatic shot of Yul Brynner (1920-1985) in his role as the pharaoh Rameses in Cecil B. DeMille's (1881-1959) epic The Ten Commandments, slouched on a throne and holding, of all things, a bunch of bananas. Each day's ad had a new line of dialogue in a cartoon "bubble" emerging from Brynner's trademark shiny dome. On one day he posed the query, "Moore Egyptian than what?" (The Seattle Times, December 5, 1975). The answer came the next day: "Moore Egyptian than Cleo's snake, that's what" (The Seattle Times, December 6, 1975). Later ads promised "Moore Egyptian than you bargained for" (The Seattle Times, December 8, 1975) and "There's a hot banana for you at the Moore Egyptian" (The Seattle Times, December 9, 1975).

Despite the somewhat hokey advertising campaign, Ireland and MacDonald were true film aficionados, and they brought to their Moore Egyptian a broad range of fare, from early Hollywood extravaganzas to first-run foreign films. Seattle got a taste of what was in store on opening night, December 14, 1975, when the feature was Busby Berkeley's (1895-1976) musical camp classic from 1943, The Gang's All Here, featuring Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) and her famous fruit hat (this may explain the otherwise inexplicable addition of bananas to the Rameses photo). This was followed over the Christmas holiday by a double bill of Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) in Casablanca and Cary Grant (1904-1986) in Arsenic and Old Lace, and these would be followed in turn by a retrospective of Federico Fellini's (1920-1993) best films and restored 35-mm classics from the MGM vaults.

The Seattle International Film Festival

Ireland and  MacDonald were to have a huge impact on Seattle's status in the world of film buffs when, in 1976, their Stage Fright Incorporated kicked off the first annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), which ran at the Moore that year from May 14 to May 31. The first season's lineup featured 18 movies, with entries from Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Switzerland, Australia, The Netherlands -- even one from Egypt. Thrown into the mix was one American production, horror-meister George Romero's (b. 1940) The Crazies, which went on to become a cult classic and was remade in 2010. During the festival the Moore Egyptian also put on weekend midnight showings of such movies as the seminal rock-festival documentary Woodstock, which could be seen for a mere 99 cents. The Moore was also the first venue in Seattle to feature midnight presentations of an enduring cult favorite, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The film festival was an immediate success and would steadily expand its offerings in subsequent years. In 1979 no fewer than 120 films were shown, and the festival lasted more than a month. The following year, 1980, saw the first post-screening audience discussions with filmmakers, a feature that helped move SIFF into the major league of film festivals.

After the 1980 season, SIFF moved to the former Masonic Temple on Capitol Hill, which was renamed "The Egyptian." In 2011, festival headquarters were relocated to the SIFF Film Center, which was opened that year on the grounds of Seattle Center. Now running an average of 25 days each year, the Seattle International Film Festival is the largest, most highly attended film festival in America, and in 2011 it drew over 150,000 movie lovers to its presentations. Currently (2012) festival screenings take place at the film center, the Egyptian, and the Uptown Theater on lower Queen Anne, which has now become a dedicated venue for the Film Center. 

Saved Yet Again             

After Ireland and MacDonald lost the lease to the venue in 1985, it reverted back to its original name of The Moore Theatre and again became an event-by-event rental house for a wide variety of entertainment, from dance troupes and alternative rock to classic movies and stage productions. As in some of its earlier periods, the quality of the presentations offered was spotty, and the historic old venue again seemed somewhat bereft of any overarching purpose. But once again, help was on the way, and once more it was a woman who would lead the way.

In 1992 Microsoft alumna Ida Cole had purchased the also-historic Paramount Theatre, rescuing it from near-certain doom and spearheading an expensive and extensive restoration. Shortly thereafter, the non-profit Seattle Landmark Association that Cole headed (and which, in 1999, was reorganized as the Seattle Theatre Group) leased the Moore Theatre from George Toulouse (1917-1998), a Seattle attorney and real-estate investor who had purchased the theater and hotel many years earlier. His family now (2012) owns the property, which is still under lease to STG.

Toulouse is an unsung hero of the Moore's survival as a largely-intact example of early-twentieth-century theater architecture. He endured many long years of low return on his investment in both the theater and the hotel, but consistently balked at allowing any ventures that would have threatened the venue's historic ambience. He delighted in his ownership of the theater, as revealed by an anecdote from his obituary:

"Once, when giving a local reporter a tour of the Moore Theatre, Mr. Toulouse hopped on stage and began singing 'The Impossible Dream.' In later years, he enjoyed watching musicals from the first balcony of the theater" ("George Toulouse; Lawyer With Passion For Education").

The Seattle Theatre Group, which now also owns the Paramount and also leases the Neptune Theatre in the University District, was the perfect vehicle to both honor the Toulouse family's dedication to the Moore and maintain its reputation as a venue for diverse, high-quality entertainment. From September through early December  of 2007, the group celebrated the centennial of "Seattle's Oldest Operating Theatre ("The Moore Centennial") with a series of events, including a tribute to various entertainments that had graced its stage over the years. Among the celebratory events were:

  • The  Martha Graham Dance Company, which Cecilia Schultz first brought to the Moore in 1936;
  • Performances by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, which called the theater home in the early 1900s;
  • A 100th Anniversary Improv Comedy night on October 15, 2007;
  • A screening of Land of the Headhunters, Edward Curtis's 1914 feature film that was the first dramatic movie to use an all-Native cast (members of British Columbia's Kwakwaka'wakw linguistic group). Descendants of the original players also performed at this screening;
  • A grand open-house celebration on December 10, 2007 that featuring theater tours and  local performing artists paying tribute to its long history.

Under ongoing management by the Seattle Theatre Group, the Moore today offers a wide variety of entertainment, from dance troupes and alternative rock to classic movies and stage productions. Virtually every musical genre, from the most hard-core punk to flashy funk, has had a place on the Moore stage in recent years. Although its historic character remains largely intact, various remodeling efforts over the years have changed some of the features of the original theater, and it now seats approximately 1,400, about 1,000 fewer than it did when first opened.

Seattle is fortunate to have organizations, government agencies, and private citizens willing to put time and money into preserving the city's theatrical heritage. The continued vitality of the Moore Theatre is just one example of what that dedication and hard work has achieved.


"Last Touches on Moore Theater," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 18, 1907, p. 3; "The Alaskan," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 22, 1907, Magazine Section II, p. 7;  "Opening of the Moore Theater," Ibid., December 28, 1907, p. 7; "Theater Opening Brilliant Affair," Ibid., December 29, 1907, Second Section, p. 4; "Architect Houghton Has Designed Many Theaters," Ibid., December 29, 1907, Second Section, p. 4; "New Playhouse One of Moore's Great Triumphs," Ibid., December 29, 1907, Second Section, p. 4; "New Theater is Very Beautiful," Ibid., December 29, 1907, Second Section, p. 5; "Moore Theater to Open Tomorrow Night," Seattle Star, December 27, 1907, p. 6; "Moore Theater Opens With The Alaskan," Ibid., December 30, 1907, p. 8; "Moore Theater Opens Tonight," Seattle Star, December 28, 1907, p. 3;  "Proposed Theater Rivals Any In America," The Seattle Daily Times., September 23, 1903, p. 1); "Dirt is Being Taken From the Site of The Moore Theatre," Ibid., April 7, 1905, p. 1; "Moore Theater is Opened to Public," Ibid., December 29, 1907, p. 1, 3; M. McV. S., "Alaskan Warmly Welcomed," Ibid., December 29, 1907, p. 3; "Extravaganze to Add to Potlatch Week,"  Ibid., June 30, 1935, p. 38; "Mrs. Schultz Will Present Fine Artists," Ibid., August 11, 1935, p. 35; "Frontier Comedy, 'Roadside,'  Offers Laughs Galore," Ibid., September 20, 1935, p. 30; "A Landmark's Passing," Ibid., April 12, 1949, p. 6; "Billie Opie" (advertisement), Ibid., September 30, 1950, p. 5; Virginia Boren, "Moore Theatre Leased by Woman Impresario," The Seattle Sunday Times, March 3, 1935, p. 9; John Hartl, "First Seattle Film Festival Starts May 14 at the Moore," The Seattle Times, April 25, 1976, p.  A-20;  Jim Simon, "George Toulouse; Lawyer With Passion For Education," Ibid.,  May 11, 1998 (; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Schultz, Cecilia Augspurger (1878-1971)" (by James R. Warren), and "New Orpheum Theatre opens in Seattle on August 28, 1927" (by Eric L. Flom),  and "Denny/Washington Hotel (Seattle)," (by Paul Dorpat) (accessed April 9-12, 2012); Misha Berson, "Off-Stage News," The Seattle Times, October 7, 1999 (; Bruce Paddock, "Moore Theatre," Silent Era website accessed April 9, 2012 (; "The Moore Centennial," (Program), Seattle Theatre Group, 2007; "Program, Moore Theatre," December 28, 1907, J. Willis Sayre Papers, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections; Sean McIntyre, "History of The Moore," Seattle Theatre Group website accessed April 2012 (; Jeffrey Karl Ochsner and Dennis A. Andersen, "Edwin W. Houghton," in Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects ed. by Jeffrey Karl Ochsner (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994), 46-51; Lawrence Kriesman, Made to Last: Historic Preservation in Seattle and King County (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), 36.
Note: This essay, originally written in June 2002,  was greatly expanded in April 2012.

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