Sunday marked the last day the Neptune Theatre was open as a movie theater. The Seattle Theatre Group (STG) is taking over its lease, restoring the historical detail and transforming the theater to a live-performance venue.
Regulars said goodbye to their beloved Neptune Theatre on Sunday.
“It was like a live wake,” said Tomo Nakayama, who’s worked at the movie theater at 1303 N.E. 45th St. in Seattle’s University District for the past eight years. “I’m glad I got to be a part of its history.”
Sunday marked the last day the Neptune operated as a movie theater. The Seattle Theatre Group (STG) is taking over its lease, restoring the historical detail and transforming the theater to a live-performance venue. The Neptune will still occasionally show films.
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“We appreciate the years of great experiences citizens have had at the Neptune and the great treasure it is to this city,” said Josh LaBelle, STG executive director. “This is the Neptune’s moment, and all of those individuals who have worked tirelessly to keep it alive and well for so long.”
Neptune is one of the last running movie theaters in town with a balcony, said manager Patrick Tennant. At 90 years old, the theater has seen better days — the marquee is rusted, the sea-green carpet long stained and the popcorn machine overcome by grease. Given its name, the theater had a quirky, nautical theme — the candy station was housed in a wooden boat, the doors had portholes for windows and the clock was framed in a steering wheel.
Even five years ago, the 725-seat theater packed 500 to 600 on blockbuster weekends, Nakayama said. Lately, on a good day, the theater attracted maybe 100 to 200. Sunday’s matinee, “The Green Hornet,” drew only a handful. Nakayama figures there were so few people because news of the theater’s close came last year, and folks may have thought it was already closed.
“It’ll definitely be missed,” said Lorraine Weeks, a 71-year-old Kirkland resident, who used to work at the theater in high school. She returned Sunday to reminisce with friends. The three friends used to live above the theater and sneak in their boyfriends to watch movies. This was back in the late ’50s, when movie tickets cost only a dollar and patrons were shown to their seats by flashlight.
Others, like Renee Dusoleil, who brought her 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, came to witness history, not just to watch the movie.
“I thought it was a good memory for them to have,” said Dusoleil, whose first movie there was “The Merchant of Venice.”
“The building is a classic,” she said.
Colin Marcoe worked at the theater in his 20s and remarked how things looks exactly the same, especially the popcorn machine.
“Most of my friendships are here from this theater,” said Marcoe, 47. “We even hung out here on our days off.”
That was the case for the theater’s five-man crew, who will work their last days next week, tearing out half of the seats to make room for the new performance venue.
Nakayama, 30, member of popular Seattle bands The Maldives and Grand Hallway, stayed at the theater even after he graduated from the University of Washington and started touring. The theater attracted an artsy crew, not the usual teens that work at cineplexes, Tennant said. A movie buff himself, he spent the day replacing the current movie posters with ones from his old collection, just for fun.
Tennant has worked at the Neptune since 1994 and made a career of working at old theaters, such as Seattle’s Moore and Coliseum. He sees the lease change as a sign of a transforming neighborhood. Before STG, Sound Transit considered demolishing the building to create a light-rail station and has now located next door.
STG plans to reopen the theater this spring.
“I’ll miss the building,” Tennant said. “I’ll miss the creaky floor, the strange wiring, the doors that don’t close right. It’ll be odd to work somewhere new.”
Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or email@example.com