The asking price is nearly $2.5 million. If that sounds spendy, consider that a house was recently listed in a Herald ad for close to $1.7 million. What’s for sale in the heart of downtown Everett offers more than any mansion could.
There are some 810 cushy red seats, an elegant lobby, a well-worn stage, a high-end sound system — and oh, the history.
When the Historic Everett Theatre first opened to an audience Nov. 4, 1901, Gov. John R. Rogers was in the crowd to see “The Casino Girl,” a road show version of a Broadway musical. Stars who once graced its stage included John Barrymore, Al Jolson, Lon Chaney, Lillian Russell and Nat King Cole. By the 1980s, when I took my little girl to see “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the theatre had been badly renovated to be a triplex movie house.
Gloriously restored, the theater recently has been a venue for big-name musicians, tribute bands, stage shows, civic events, movie nights, even broadcasts of Seahawks games. Now, it’s up for sale.
Everett’s Curt Shriner, 67, has been operating the theater since 2014. That’s when his brother, Woodinville real estate businessman Craig Shriner, took ownership of the building. It had previously been in foreclosure.
“Craig wants to retire,” Curt Shriner said Tuesday. “It’s Craig’s building.”
The theater at 2911 Colby Ave. is listed for sale on the website of Colliers International, a global real estate company. “The property has been on the market roughly a month,” said Kim Hutchins, a senior vice president in the Colliers International Bellevue office. Describing the theater as a “highly visible architecturally significant building,” the company lists the price as $2,450,000.
It was March 2014, according to a Herald article that year, when Craig Shriner, now 69, brought the note on the theater previously held by the Snohomish County Music Project. The note had been donated to that nonprofit by the Schacks, a philanthropic family in Everett.
Curt Shriner, who had been on the board of the Everett Theatre Society that worked to restore the building, is retired from a real estate career. He also has a flair for acting. With his wife, Laura Shriner, the box office manager, he has devoted years to their labor of love — making a go of the theater.
In 1998, he and his future bride met there during an “It’s a Wonderful Life” stage production. “I was playing Sam Wainwright and she was running the lights,” Curt Shriner said. “We were married in 2002 on the Everett theater stage.”
The Historic Everett Theatre Preservation Society operates as a nonprofit, with Curt and Craig Shriner both on its board of directors.
Curt Shriner said many small theaters receive major support from individual donors and businesses. That hasn’t happened in a big way for the Historic Everett Theatre. There has been grant money, he said, including $2,500 from the city of Everett for a new projector and $1,500 from Snohomish County for advertising.
At one point, Curt Shriner was putting a group together to buy the theater from his brother. That fell apart after issues arose with one partner, he said. Still, there’s an opportunity to buy the theater from Craig Shriner “if I put a group together,” Curt Shriner said. Unless that happens, the financial hurdle is too high.
The theater is booked through December. Coming attractions include the Fisherman’s Village Music Festival on March 31, Los Lonely Boys on April 27, Blood Sweat and Tears featuring Bo Bice on May 26, and many more acts and classic films. An annual “Night With Elvi,” on Oct. 12, is a fundraiser for the Everett Gospel Mission.
“I spent $450,000 on entertainment acts last year,” Curt Shriner said. Late last year, he tried selling membership packages at different prices, with free tickets to some shows. “I sold four,” he said.
Some programs he thought would do well didn’t. The theater spent thousands of dollars to bring Olivia Newton-John to Everett in February 2017, but the audience mostly stayed away.
History buffs have read about the theater’s past in “Mill Town Footlights,” a 2001 book written by retired Everett Public Library historian David Dilgard.
Curt Shriner still sees the old theater as a major asset for downtown Everett. For a night out, theatergoers spend money on restaurant dinners. Those who travel to shows stay in local hotels. The city recognized the theater’s contributions by including it among its 2018 Wendt and Mayor’s Arts Awards, naming the Historic Everett Theatre the “Organization Making an Impact.”
In 2014, the theater received a Voice of the Community Award from KSER, Everett’s independent public radio station, for “Cultural Impact by a Business.”
Familiar with every inch of the theater, Curt Shriner has changed 360 bulbs in its wondrous dome light that softly illuminates the ceiling. He has joined ghost hunters who come seeking evidence the theater is haunted. He loves the place.
“If we can put a group together, that’s great. We need community and business support,” Curt Shriner said. If not, he hopes another buyer will value its past and tend to its future.
“It’s too much history to lose,” he said.