Pe Ell Theatre

Pe Ell, WA 98572

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Ideal Theatre

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The Ideal Theatre was built by the Pe Ell Masonic Lodge in 1926. The Lodge occupied the upper floor of this three story wood building. The theatre occupied the first and second floors. The Northcoast Theatres chain, located (then) in Seattle, Washington operated this theatre and the Tenino Theatre (Tenino, WA). It was renamed Pe Ell Theatre. Unfortunately, this theatre mysteriously burnt to the ground in 1971.

The theatre was never replaced after it burnt down. There were a total of two theatere in this town over the years. This one and the Pe Ell Tokay Theatre.

Contributed by Ken Layton

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

kateymac01 on September 13, 2005 at 1:24 pm

Do you have information on the Pe Ell Tokay?

publichall on May 4, 2007 at 12:08 pm

Here’s more on the Pe Ell Theater from period newspaper articles:
The theater was opened as the Ideal Theater by a man named R.H. Shaffer sometime in the 1910’s. The Masonic lodge purchsed he building in June of 1927 and replaced it with a two story brick building built by W.T. Stapleton of Raymond, WA at a cost of about $16,000. The New 485 seat Ideal theater was on the first floor with lodge rooms above. The theater may have been renamed the Pe Ell theater later on.

JackCoursey on April 26, 2022 at 2:02 pm

There is a Gould Theatre listed in the 1930 Pe Ell directory with no street address. Could this be the same?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 30, 2022 at 5:44 pm

The Gould is listed in the 1926 FDY with 215 seats. The Ideal was also listed, with 210 seats, so they were not the same theater. I found the Gould mentioned in both the August 24, 1918 and the January 8, 1923 issues of Moving Picture World. The January 27, 1906 issue of Pacific Building and Engineering Record has this item: “Pe Ell, Opera House: Walter Gould will build a new opera house, 50x80 ft., 2 stories high.” The Chehalis Bee-Nugget of May 14, 1926 said that “[t]he Gould theater has installed a ‘New-Air’ cooling system, capable of circulating 15,000 cubic feet of fresh air per minute. A hundred new theater chairs have also been added to the seating capacity.” Walter Gould was noted as the owner.

The Gould might have operated under other aka’s though. The 1914-1915 American Motion Picture Directory lists only two theaters at Pe Ell, the Orpheum and the Pe Ell Theatre. I found the Orpheum mentioned in the theatrical journal The Player as early as May 31, 1912, along with a house called the People’s Theatre. Pe Ell supported two theaters for quite a long time, considering how small it was. It’s possible that lumbering camps in the area had large seasonal populations patronizing the town’s businesses.

JackCoursey on May 3, 2022 at 9:23 pm

Thanks for the research Joe! I have been reviewing the city directories and related media at the Washington State Library and am amazed at the number of small rural communities with a population of way less than 1,000 that had two or more theatres.

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