The Garland Theater (1945)

By Laura Lewis

Pictured above, the Garland Theater, present day. Public Domain photo.

With the end of World War II in August 1945, the Garland Theater in Spokane, WA, opened its doors on November 22 of that year. Crowds lined up around the block to see the evening’s comedic double features: It’s a Pleasure and Double Exposure. The lobby, adorned with brown oak walls and floors covered in rose color carpet, was lined with baskets, flowers and well-wishes from Hollywood stars including Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby recounts The Spokesman. At the time the Garland was described as state-of-the-art, with the notable architecture the brainchild of Arthur Harvey. Its large auditorium featured close to 1,000 seats with powder blue and Italian red walls, and with germicidal lamps to keep the air purified.

The Garland Theater at its grand opening in 1945. Photo courtesy of the Garland Theater.

Nine years later in 1954, with the introduction of the wide film format that same year, the Garland received a new wide screen, stereophonic sound, and new seating at a cost of $20,000 ($276,990 in today’s dollars). It eventually changed hands a number times throughout the years, and found itself in a bit of a controversy in the 1970s when it survived for a brief period as an adult movie house showing titles like “Emmanuelle” and “Miss Kitty,” along with Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky.” After closing in 1986, it was purchased by Don Clifton, in November of 1988, who reopened it as the first discount theater in Spokane. With the concept catching on, it was purchased in 1999 by Katherine Fritchie, who opened an adjacent cocktail bar, The Bon-Bon, which currently features bingo every Wednesday night, and other events during the week.

Processed paychecks issued to Garland Theater employees in 1945. Image courtesy of Katherine Fritchie.

Throughout the years the Garland became an important part of North Hill and its community, creating jobs and bringing in revenue. The only times it stood empty was during times of economic downturn or competition from the new Cineplexes, which started popping up in the late 1980s and eventually came to dominate the movie marketplace. With the introduction of bingo and trivia nights, the theater’s community atmosphere only grew more popular, drawing large crowds of people to these fun social nights. Foxy Bingo Reviews shows how many people enjoy bingo’s social and communal aspects, which can be experienced both online as well as in historic places such as the Garland Theater. With bingo being such a versatile and adaptable game, it is no wonder that it draws both young and old crowds alike. The friendly atmosphere and low prices still attracts large crowds.

When the Garland Theater opened its doors in November 1945 it was the premier movie house in the West, rivaling and surpassing theaters in Los Angeles and Hollywood. 70 years later in 2015, still alive and kicking, it successfully marked its 70th anniversary, with a showing of the original “Jungle Book” from 1942. Katherine Fritchie has been working hard to restore the theater to its original splendor by modernizing the sound and projection system, and installing larger and more comfortable seating, all the while retaining the same community atmosphere of old. As part of the community for 73 years the Garland Theater has become one of Spokane’s most iconic buildings and businesses, drawing large crowds of locals and visitors every week.

Learn more about the Garland Theater here: The Garland Theater

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3 Replies to “The Garland Theater (1945)”

  1. I think it is very regrettable that something that is supposed to be for the entire family has a venue as part of it that serves alcohol. I would never go there because of this.

    1. Wait, what? We go there with our family often. We have never gone into the bar. So you never go into a restaurant if it has a bar section? Wow!

  2. Always has to be a negative person posting their depressing feelings about something, doesn’t there. They don’t force you to drink anything there, so keep your complaints to yourself.
    It is an addition that is welcomed by many. You still have a choice in this country, so enjoy the drinks or just watch the movies.
    The Garland Theater is a survivor and does it by doing things right. The new owner deserves a huge thank you from the community for bringing the life back into the theater and keeping the look original. It is a landmark in Spokane and will remain an icon as long as it survives. Keep up the great work on the theater and we are very appreciative of your beautiful job on the place. I couldn’t imagine this place not being there and everyone should respect what you have done. Thank You

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