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Longview Theatre

1996 Photo from the Dave Felthous collection
1433 Commerce Ave
Longview WA 98632

Record #2519  
 Opened: 1942
 Closed: 2001
 Current Use:
Capacity: 550 seats
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As:
 Previously operated by: Sterling Recreation Organization, Cineplex Odeon Theatres, Act III Theatres, Regal Cinemas

Information for this tour was contributed by Dave Felthous.

The Longview Theater, built by local businessman Steve Oversby, opened in 1942 with about 550 seats, larger than the 450-seat Roxy (closed in 1946) but much smaller than the 1,100-seat Columbia Theater. The entrance walls around the poster cases and box office were covered with small gold-glass mosiacs that reflected the twinkling border lights of the marquee, making for a glitzy atmosphere.

In 1945 Mr. Oversby sold the theater to the Sterling circuit of Seattle. Under Sterling, it became the premier local movie house, playing new, major-studio films day-and-date with Portland and Seattle.

In 1954 the auditorium underwent a major remodeling to accommodate CinemaScope and stereophonic sound. The top of the 32-foot screen also opened up to allow the huge, more-square VistaVision image.

Inexplicably, the next year the Longview Theater closed "for the summer" and languished for 15 years, leaving the larger but much older and rundown Columbia Theater down the street as Longview's surviving movie house.

In 1970, under new management at Sterling, the theater was extensively refurbished after years of neglect and reopened on Thanksgiving Day with "Hello, Dolly!" The new screen is 38 feet wide. A tan, black and purple waterfall curtain replaced the red traverse drapery of the theater's previous incarnation. This allowed for a wider screen.

In 1986 Sterling sold out to Cineplex Odeon, which later got rid of its smaller-market theaters by selling their non-urban houses to the Act III chain of Portland. Act III was subsequently bought out by Regal, the nation's largest chain, but not before Act III invested in digital sound formats for the Longview Theater. With its very high ceiling and draped walls, the accoustics in this small gem of a cinema provide a stunning sound experience.

Regal spent six months trying to sell the Longview Cinema but was unsuccessful. The theater was closed in July 2001.

In 2002, the interior was gutted and turned into a skateboard park, of all things.

The charming but long-closed art-deco theater has since been purchased by Longview's only professional theater company, Stageworks Northwest, which is raising money to restore the facade and replicate the original entrance while converting the rest of the building to a small playhouse, adding dressing rooms and more restrooms.

 Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

August 2013 photos from the Dave Felthous collection.

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January 2010 photos from the Dave Felthous collection.

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May 1999 photos from the Ken Layton collection.

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1996 photos from the Dave Felthous collection.

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Last featured 1/23/2005. Last edited 2/9/2013.

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