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  • Writer's pictureKatie Jaeger

Roosevelt Snapshot: The Hollywood Theater

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

In the latest in our occasional series on Roosevelt history, today we’re looking at the former Hollywood Theater building, located at the southeastern corner of Roosevelt Way and NE 66th. Known most recently as the Emerald City Boxing Gym, to long-time neighborhood residents as Cloud 9 Thrift Shop, and to Roosevelt Way commuters as “you know, the building with that Seattle history mural on the side,” the building served as the area’s local cinema (and occasional event space) for nearly three decades.

In August 1923, the Seattle Times announced plans for a neighborhood theater, which was to be a “strictly modern one-story structure, of masonry construction.” By November, the Seattle Star reported that construction was underway, in the “old Spanish bungalow style.” (We were unable to track down photos of the original cinema building, and thus the actual style of the 1924 building remains a mystery.)

Seattle Times, 1925

The theater was up and running by 1925, touting itself as the “most modern theatre in Seattle,” and offering “entertainment of the better kind.” By 1938, the theater had a new owner and plans were underway for a $20,000 remodel and renovation.

This rendering of the remodeled Hollywood Theater appeared in the Seattle Times shortly before re-opening.

Whatever the building’s original style, the 1938 renovations converted the theater to an Art Moderne style (see the rounded corners, strong horizontal lines, and the tower-like portion on the main façade that held a neon “Hollywood” sign).

Photo by King County Tax Assessor, 1938

The theater’s grand (re)opening, on September 2, 1938, was marked by great fanfare in the neighborhood, with live music provided by the local American Legion’s drum and bugle corps. A full-page feature in the Seattle Times announced the re-opening, and local merchants throughout the neighborhood posted ads congratulating the theater, which was now under new ownership and management.

Seattle Times, September 2, 1938, p. 22

The Hollywood Theater stopped operating in the early 1950s, and by 1957, the building was occupied by a his-and-hers pair of gyms: National Health Conditioning Studio and Lovely Lady Figure Salon.

Photo by King County Tax Assessor, 1954

Like many of today’s gyms, Lovely Lady and National Health offered couples deals, unlimited-visit promotions, and “guaranteed” results….

Seattle Times, 1957

By 1962, the gyms had closed and the former theater became home to the Cloud 9 Thrift Shop, which occupied the building for the next 50 years. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, whose annual rummage sale morphed into the year-round shop, eventually bought the building, with church members contributing toward the down payment.

Cloud 9 retained the Hollywood Theater’s 1938 marquee, including the dramatic capital H. Photo by Joe Mabel, 2009

Even for those who didn’t haunt consignment shops, the building became readily recognizable with the 1989 addition of a mural on the northern facade, depicting Seattle’s history from Chief Sealth to Jimi Hendrix. Painted by Larry Kangas, the mural was (and remains, mostly) visible to anyone driving south on Roosevelt Way, and to patrons of the QFC that stood on what is now the light rail station and Cedar Crossing housing development.

Photo by Studio TJP, 2022

Cloud 9 closed in 2012, having contributed more than $2.4 million of proceeds to charity. St. Stephen’s sold the building in 2016.

Photo by Studio TJP, 2022

Although the movie marquee is gone, the tower that once held the “Hollywood” sign remains, perhaps the only visual reminder that this was once an Art Deco movie theater. Since 2020 the building has been home to Emerald City Boxing Gym…. a return to form, considering the building housed a gym 65 years ago. If the trend of history echoing itself continues, the next tenant would be a movie theater once again. This seems unlikely, given that the building hardly puts the “mega” in megaplex, and yet utterly delightful, to dream about a walkable neighborhood movie theater.

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