EVERETT — This old house could use new curtains, new carpet and a new coat of paint.
The playhouse last saw new carpeting in the mid-1950s, about the time Chuck Berry recorded “Roll Over Beethoven.”
The last time a paint brush touched the 70 feet high ceiling? Thirty years ago.
Some years ago, the Schack family, local philanthropists, saved the theatre from the wrecking ball. The family donated a note on the building to the Snohomish County Music Project.
In 2014, Craig Shriner, a retired real estate businessman, bought the note from the Music Project, a nonprofit.
For nearly two decades, the Historic Everett Theatre Preservation Society has operated the theatre as a nonprofit.
Owners Craig Shriner and Curt Shriner continue the tradition. Both serve on the society’s board of directors.
The nonprofit’s mission?
Promote the arts and art education, ensure the historical integrity of the building and make sure it remains a venue for concerts, community theater, comedy nights, silent movies and fundraisers.
The 17,000-square-foot facility offers seating for 800 audience members on three levels.
The theatre is for sale, said Curt Shriner, who manages the box office and bookings.
“I’m 71 and my brother is 74. I’d like to retire one day,” Curt Shriner said. “We’re searching for a buyer who will preserve it and not tear it down and turn it into a parking lot.”
Designed in 1900 by noted architect Charles Herbert Bebb, the playhouse was built for $70,000. Portions of the theatre were rebuilt after a fire in 1923. Today, the building is a Washington Heritage Register property.
“The grand old dame of Everett” is how the late David Dilgard, longtime historian at the Everett Public Library, described the theatre.
Stars who once graced its stage include John Barrymore, Al Jolson, Lon Chaney, Lillian Russell and Nat King Cole
In the 1980s, the theatre was badly renovated and turned into a triplex movie house. Fortunately, the walls came down in the 1990s under a previous owner.
Today, the vintage playhouse and former movie palace hosts concerts, tributes, comedy shows and film fests.
More than 30 volunteers help usher, staff the concessions and otherwise make sure the show goes on. The theatre employs one part-time worker.
Many Everett residents and downtown business owners say they’d like to see the theatre flourish.
Ben Corey, co-owner of Pops Skate Shop, at 2826 Rucker Ave., Everett, was among those who said they’d like to see it bring in more acts that “cater to a larger audience.”
Liz Stenning, executive director of the Downtown Everett Association, wishes the same. The theatre plays an important role in enticing visitors to the city’s core, she said.
But bringing in the bigger acts is a challenge, Shriner said. Large acts typically ask $50,000 to $100,000 to appear.
“There’s no way that pencils with 800 seats,” Shriner said. “So we bring in the acts asking $20,000 -$25,000. When people don’t buy tickets that comes out of our pocket.”
In some cases, the acts themselves rent the theatre, and pay for its use upfront.
Events are intended to be enjoyed by all ages, though performances staged by those who rent the facility may have different standards, Curt Shriner said.
The theatre was closed for more than a year during the pandemic.
Curt Shriner said many small theaters receive support from individual donors and businesses. That hasn’t happened in a big way for the Historic Everett Theatre.
There has been some grant money, he said, including $2,500 from the city of Everett for a new projector and $1,500 from Snohomish County for advertising.
One way to support the theatre is to enjoy a show.
Each ticket purchased includes a 35% donation to the Historic Everett Theatre Preservation Society to assist in the care and upkeep of the building.
Why support the arts?
There’s plenty of wisdom on the topic, but here’s what the late Dorothea Tanning, an American painter, had to say:
“Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don’t see a different purpose for it now.”
The nice thing about the Everett Historic Theatre is you can choose your raft: From tribute bands that offer the music of Linda Ronstadt or AC/DC to comedy shows and silent movies that leap off the screen accompanied by the theatre’s pipe organ.