249 W. Riverside Avenue,
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Architects: Alfred Jones
Previous Names: Washington Theatre, Empress Theatre, Pikes's Empress Theatre
In 1978 The Spokane Daily Chronicle looked back at some of the city’s theatres of the past. It was said that the Empress Theatre, built in about 1906, was “the Cinderella of the Spokane theatres,” which by 1932 had become rather shabby. Arthur J. Bishell then cleaned, fixed and dressed it up and started showing second-run pictures that had been successfully proven in Spokane’s first-run houses. Sometimes he could even find a good first-run picture that had been turned down by the downtown theatres. He turned the theatre around by charging a third of what the downtown locations had been getting. This economical policy made the theatre very popular and it started to attract the family trade. This success enabled Bishell to eventually lease the Granada Theatre downtown.
According to Chronicle ads, through much of the war years it was known as Pike’s Empress Theatre, “Open All Night” and finally becoming in 1946 a playhouse presenting legitimate plays.
On February 16, 1948 it became listed in the Chronicle as the Studio Theatre, playing B pictures but on October 19, 1949 the theatre was once again called the Empress Theatre. This time however in addition to a double feature patrons were treated to an “All-Girl Stage Revue.” It appears this policy may have been short-lived because in less than a year the Empress Theatre had dropped out of the theatre pages.
Still, the Studio Theatre was in the Film Daily Yearbook of 1951-53 with seating listed at 750 but no more mention was made of the Studio Theatre until 1961 when the news said that was it was being converted to a church.
By 1982 the main part of the building had been demolished with the lobby still standing. On December 4 a fire reported in a nearby hotel finished off the remainder of the theatre. The site is now a parking lot.
This Studio Theatre should not be confused with a later 1970’s Studio Theatre that gained notoriety in Spokane by playing X-Rated movies. That Studio Theatre was located at 326 Riverside Avenue and was known earlier as the Empire Theatre, Rex Theatre, Nu-Rex Theatre and El Rey Theatre. (it has its own page on Cinema Treasures)
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