ALONG WALLINGFORD’S main street has stood a theater known since 1957 as the Guild 45th. It’s been shuttered since 2017. Early this month, its sign and prow marquee, deemed a safety hazard after a truck hit them, were torn down.
The marquee recently had injected pandemic-era whimsy and inspiration. Starting Dec. 18, 2020, its east face displayed just one word: “Scarfface.” It switched last July 18 to another movie pun: “Vax to the Future.”
The pointed humor masked a dour trend. Virus-related restrictions have tanked revenue at movie theaters nationwide. Insiders note that some demographic groups (such as older women) have stopped going to movies altogether, which in turn affects the types of films in production.
’Twas not always thus. Before video rentals, DVDs and the internet (not to mention TV), neighborhood movie theaters were ubiquitous magnets. For Wallingford, the love affair started a century ago.
What became the Guild 45th at 2115 N. 45th St. was opened in 1921 by W.C. Code as the Paramount Theatre. The 40-by-90-foot building seated 475 and hosted movies and live productions, with occasional political or business gatherings.
It was re-christened the 45th Street theater on Sept. 1, 1933, by its new owner, H.W. Bruen. With a neon marquee, the art-deco mini-palace became what The Seattle Times called “symbolic in architecture and design of the Century of Progress.”
Two-plus decades later, in December 1956, the fledgling, nonmainstream Seattle Cinema Guild began bookings of classic U.S. and foreign films at the 45th. The next year, the remodeled theater acquired its present name and became a so-called art house, screening “the world’s greatest” foreign films, banning anyone under 18, and supplying free coffee and cigarettes between shows. The first offering was a French sexploitation flick, “Companions of the Night.”
The fare had broadened by February 1983, when, four years after joining the Seven Gables chain, the Guild 45th appended an auditorium with 200 steeply raked seats two storefronts to its west. In 1989, it became part of Landmark Theatres.
Citing too many alterations, the city landmarks board voted 6-2 in May 2016 not to protect the Guild 45th, and it closed 13 months later. Early in 2021, its deteriorating structures, including an ex-restaurant between them, were painted with a colorful mural by Urban ArtWorks to deter random graffiti.
What will become of the Guild 45th site? LA-based owner 2929 Entertainment has not said. But the 1933 films on the marquee in our “Then” photo suggest clues: While the theater certainly is “Ever in My Heart,” no one would be surprised if it were to give way to yet another faceless, modern monolith — like the disaster befalling the characters in “Deluge.”