Theater News

Seattle Now Has a Downtown Historic Theater District

Mayor McGinn just signed legislation to preserve five city theaters.

By Laura Dannen December 6, 2011

Mayor McGinn announced today that five theaters in downtown Seattle have been grouped into a "historic theater district," giving the city its first formal theater zone since Seattle Center became a cultural hub after the 1962 World’s Fair.

The district is roughly a triangle of eight city blocks, from the Moore Theatre on Second and Virginia over to the Paramount Theatre at Ninth and Pine, and up to Town Hall at Eighth and Seneca; within is A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) on Seventh and 5th Avenue Theatre, where McGinn signed the resolution this morning. Each theater was built before the Great Depression, though several have faced hard times since. Seattle Theatre Group resurrected the Paramount in 2002, ACT was reinvented in the past decade, and Town Hall recently received a $125,000 preservation grant to keep the century-old building from leaking.

Though the historic theater district designation doesn’t include any shiny new marquees or funding for the organizations, the legislation will help preserve the integrity of the buildings. The city will also have a vested interest in maintaining a partnership with the arts groups, which McGinn deemed a spark in "some pretty rough economic times."

"I’m going to put some dry numbers on it," he said. In 2010, the theaters created 2,000 local jobs and generated $15 million; they also helped tourism, with 20 percent of audiences come from outside King County. "This is part of what makes Seattle special, and part of what will carry us through these times into better times."

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