Moore Theatre, 1909 – Courtesy of Museum of History and Industry

The Moore Theatre and the adjoining Moore Hotel was built by the flamboyant Seattle real estate developer James A. Moore and remains as the oldest operating theater in Seattle. Designed by the Northwest’s premier architect, Edwin W. Houghton it was first leased and managed by the President of Northwestern Theatrical Association, John Cort.

Courtesy of Museum of History and Industry

The Epitome of Architectural Elegance

When the Moore Theatre opened in 1907, it was a lavish social venue for the Gilded Age elite of early Seattle. It was developed in part to capture patrons visiting the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The Moore Theatre with its 2436 seats and innovative features was foremost a playhouse presenting first-class attractions. Designed without vertical supports for the balcony there were gentle sloping ramps leading to the second level seating. Originally the theatre had an orchestra pit, but unlike many of the early theatres did not have a theatre pipe organ. The theatre had a stylistically neutral exterior compared to its extravagant interior of onyx, marble, stained glass, muses, mosaic floors, with ivory, old rose, olive and gold décor.

The theatre opening was the social event of the season and reporters noted that “…it had seldom, if ever been duplicated in Seattle." The Moore Theatre has been a home for every type of performing arts, film, art exhibits, speakers, rallies, revivals, minstrel shows, graduations and even boxing matches. The 2nd balcony with its separate side entrance was used during the racially segregated period of its history. The theatre was the original home of the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle International Film Festival.

Courtesy of Nathan Troupe

100 Years of Performing Arts History

The Moore Theatre was shaped physically and culturally by the agendas of its lessees. The Vaudeville Circuit and others had a significant impact on physical configuration of the theatre. The theatre experienced a number of refurbishment efforts and name changes through the years. By 1974 the theatre’s physical well-being deteriorated and it struggled to survive. The Moore Theatre gained new purpose with the advent of the Seattle International Film Festival in 1976.

In 1994, the Moore Theatre was leased by the Seattle Landmark Association, later named Seattle Theatre Group®. The Moore Theatre celebrated its 100th anniversary in December 2007, with an open house and public events.

Moore Theatre Renovation 2013 - Courtesy Seattle Theatre Group®

In July 2013, Seattle Theatre Group® began a 2-month renovation of the theatre. Changes included upgrading 1800 seats, painting the auditorium and lobby closer to the original colors, improving the heating system and installing a curtain that can accommodate more intimate productions.

Courtesy of Cerelli Photography

The Moore Theatre Today

The renovation of the Moore Theatre was part of Seattle Theatre Group®’s collaborative stewardship of its historic theatres for future generations to enjoy. It is the hub for STG’s Education & Community Programs, where young artists can hone their craft. It continues to be a venue to present a broad spectrum of performing arts, such as dance, concerts, comedy, lecturers, variety shows, and more.

A complete history of the Moore Theatre can be found in our Archive and Gallery, which is located in the Paramount Theatre Tower at 911 Pine Street in Seattle. It is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 am to 3 pm. Admission is free!

-- Lynn Thrasher, STG Historian