I hope I didn’t help kill the Neptune Theatre (see previous post). When I first washed up in Seattle, it was home to Rocky Horror midnight shows and I’d had a sideline painting murals in bars and other exalted venues. The manager wanted Count Dracula in the lobby. I rendered a life-size Bela L. with cape spread, pointing the way to loos guarded by Theda Bara and Charlie Chaplin. I got a year’s pass, a cinemaphagic lifesaver in those pre-streaming, pre-DVD, pre-VHS days.
The murals vanished soon after, in a 1981 renovation, and spiffier mermaid-themed faux stained glass went up. Just as well—a vampire restroom monitor seemed creepy even to me. Maybe he fed the rumor that the theater was haunted, and that drove patrons away?
Nah, the Neptune suffered from the usual ills of vintage single-screen moviehouses competing in turn against multipoxes—er plexes—Blockbuster, and Netflix, now streaming. Nine hundred seats are a lot to fill, even after Landmark installed 3D. The new Regal Cinemas Thornton Place two miles away has that, plus 14 screens and IMAX, and it sucked up the Neptune’s first-run business. Limited parking and the U-District’s persistent seediness didn’t help.
Not that getting chopped into more screens is any guarantee against obsolescence. The 1926-vintage Uptown Theatre did, and it’s still closing. The fact that the Neptune is intact, high ceiling and all, may have saved it. STG wouldn’t want a bland multiplex, but the Neptune seems just grand enough. And it will provide a handy complement to STG’s larger Moore and Paramount theaters, receiving shows that are too small for them.
STG will likely remove some seats, but spokesperson Amanda Bedell promises only “minimal” changes to the décor; the stained glass stays. Contrary to rumor, STG is only renting the theater, not buying the building.