Moore Theatre is a 1,800-seat performing arts venue located at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Virginia Street, two blocks from Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington. It is the oldest still-active theater in Seattle. The Moore hosts a mix of theatrical productions, musical concerts of many varieties, and lectures. It is currently operated by the Seattle Theatre Group, which also runs the 2,803-seat Paramount Theatre and the Neptune Theatre.
Built for Seattle real estate developer James A. Moore in 1907 and designed by E. W. Houghton, the Moore was a lavish social venue for the Gilded Age elite of early 20th-century Seattle. The Moore Theatre and the adjoining Moore Hotel were designed partly to accommodate and entertain tourists visiting the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition; the Moore opened in time for the originally planned date of the Exposition in 1907.
The theater was initially operated by John Cort, later founder of a major Broadway theatre venue in New York. Excellent programming carried the Moore through the 1930s, but changes in entertainment gradually led to struggling to survive by the 1970s.
In 1975 the Moore became the Moore Egyptian. The lease was taken over by Dan Ireland and Darryl MacDonald. They added Egyptian to the title to link it to the many Egyptian Theaters in the USA and Canada and give the staid Moore sex appeal. There had previously been a Seattle Egyptian Theater on University Way (The Ave) in the University District. Dan and Darryl transformed the theater into a Movie Palace with hard work and innovative programming. Rajeeve Gupta was essential to the programming. Bill Counter was the technical wizard. Dennis Nyback was the projectionist. The Moore Egyptian was the birthplace of the first Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF, founded 1976). In 1981 the Moore's owners declined to renew their lease. Ireland and MacDonald moved to a Masonic Temple on Capitol Hill, taking the "Egyptian" name with them.
The Moore has hosted touring musicians and theatrical productions since the 1980s, currently seating about 1,400.
Built of reinforced concrete (plus an enormous steel girder spanning the width of the house, carrying the weight of the balcony without the need for support columns) and faced with a façade of white ceramic tile and terra-cotta, the theater is a mix of elements of the Byzantine and Italianate styles. Like most theaters, the exterior is relatively plain and stylistically neutral compared to the extravagant interior.
The staging area was the largest of any theater in Seattle, with an electrical system that was state-of-the-art for its time, and unusually numerous dressing rooms. Seating 2,436 in its original configuration, the Moore was one of the largest theatres in the U.S. at the time. The Moore was characterized by innovative architecture, luxurious materials, and sumptuous decor. The upper balcony, although well-appointed for its day, was originally racially segregated from the rest of the theater hall. It once had separate entrances, and to this day has a separate staircase connecting it to just inside the front door.
The Moore's architect, E. W. Houghton, also designed the Seeley Theatre in Pomeroy, Washington. Like the Moore, the Seeley, which currently seats 270 people, features a steel girder supporting the balcony without the need for supporting columns.
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