Arts and Entertainment

75 years of entertainment; The oldest running movie theater in Kitsap celebrates its birthday | Kitsap Week

The single-screen movie theater on Bainbridge Island offers art films, documentaries and classics nights. - Erin Jennings
The single-screen movie theater on Bainbridge Island offers art films, documentaries and classics nights.
— image credit: Erin Jennings

Regulars at The Historic Lynwood Theatre on Bainbridge Island often plunk down their money for a ticket and then ask what’s showing.

“I say, ‘You can’t come to the movies without knowing what’s playing,’ and they respond with, ‘I can here,’ ” TJ Faddis said. “It’s a huge compliment.”

Faddis has worked at the Lynwood since 1984, back when it was the only show in town. After Bainbridge Cinemas was built, the format for the Lynwood switched from mainstream Hollywood blockbusters to an art house, showing independent films, documentaries and other films outside the mainstream.

Faddis’ role is programmer and special events coordinator. When deciding on which films to run at the Lynwood, Faddis consults with an agent who tells her how well the films played in Seattle, New York and Los Angeles.

“I tend to program from the heart, and he tends to program from the pocketbook,” Faddis said. “Between the two of us, it’s a good balance.”

Faddis said when she searches for a film to run, she looks for one that is more than pure entertainment. She seeks out films that provoke discussion, make viewers think,  and perhaps transport viewers somewhere new.

She tries to preview every film. While viewing a film for the first time, she generates a list of questions. Afterward, she researches her questions and uses the answers as interesting pre-movie information tidbits.

If you have been to a movie at the Lynwood, Faddis is the petite woman with a booming voice who greets theatergoers with a “Hi, folks! Welcome to the Lynwood Theatre!” She then tells interesting facts about the film they are about to watch.

“It’s a nice personalized touch,” said Jeff Brein, who with with Sam Granato co-owns Bainbridge Entertainment Enterprises. (Their company owns the Lynwood and Bainbridge cinemas.) “It adds two-way interaction between the audience and the theater and rounds out the overall experience.”

Because the two theater complexes on Bainbridge are owned by the same local company, they aren’t in direct competition with each other and are able to make decisions without having a national chain dictate what needs to be shown.

As a result, unique programming is often played.

Recently the Lynwood showed a screening of the Broadway play “Company,” starring Neil Patrick Harris. And even though the production ended in April, Faddis said audience members still applauded at the end of songs and segments, as if the performers were actually on stage.

“You quickly forget you are sitting in a movie theater,” Brein said. “It becomes similar to sitting in the audience at a Broadway show, minus the pricey ticket.”

The Lynwood opened it's doors to lovers of the silver screen in 1936 and on Sunday will celebrate its 75th birthday. Faddis is organizing a memorable experience: a showing of  the 1925 silent film “Phantom of the Opera” with live music accompaniment by Dennis James, who has been backing silent films since 1971. James, who for years was the house organist for Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, now lives in New York and will return to Bainbridge Island for the special event. (And no, he doesn't travel with an organ. The Lynwood Theatre has its own.)

James has played at the Lynwood before and Brein said, “I can tell you from experience, that even though you are watching a silent film, 10 minutes into watching it, you take your focus off Dennis and it becomes so normal and natural. Everything just plays perfectly together.”  Faddis agreed and said that James knows how to make the organ “sing.”

“Phantom of the Opera” will play twice on Sunday. After the last showing, island photographer Joel Sackett will photograph viewers in their seats. Faddis isn’t sure yet what the audience members will have as props. She’s considering birthday hats and streamers, or phantom masks. But she does know the photo will be turned into the opening trailer for the theatre and for the next five years, will be shown before each movie at the Lynwood.

“This is your chance to be on screen whether you are talented or not,” Faddis said.

The Lynwood bills itself as the longest, continuing running theater west of the Mississippi River. It was the first “talkie” theater on the Bainbridge.

Being a single-screen theater has its advantages. Besides being quaint and feeling as if you are stepping back into an age that wasn't all about stadium-seating multiplexes and on-demand ticket printing, having one film showing at a time allows for something big theaters can never do: pipe in sound to the bathrooms.

When you watch a movie at the Lynwood, you don't have to worry about making a quick run to the bathroom and missing an important scene.

Thanks to its integrated sound system, you won't miss a word.

For many lifelong Bainbridge islanders, the Lynwood holds a special place in their hearts. Some had their first date or their first kiss there.

When you open the doors to the Lynwood, you are hit with its distinct and lovely smell. The air smells of old wood floors, plaster walls and decades upon decades of popcorn. If the smell could be bottled, many regulars and non-regulars alike would jump at the chance to own their own bottle of the essence of the theater.

“When you stop and think about the impact the theater has had on this community over the years, and you look at the movies that have played from 1936 on, you see that it’s a part of the fabric of the life of this community,” Brein said. “It will continue to operate under our watch. It’s too precious of an asset.”

Faddis said she has 40 movies in her Top 10 list and she can’t single out her favorite. Sometimes, she gets sad to see a movie finish its run at the theater.

She said, “There are some films that touch my soul so deeply that when I have to go upstairs on a Thursday night and tear the film down and put it into canisters to ship out, I get the same feeling as when I put my mother on a plane to go home."

The celebration details: On July 3, the silent film “The Phantom of the Opera,” starring Lon Chaney will play with live organ accompaniment by Dennis James.

The matinee showing is at 2 p.m. and tickets are $15.

The evening show begins with an al fresco dinner and live music at 5:30 p.m., followed by the 7:30 show. At this performance, the show includes an introduction by song-and-dance man Tim Tully and a post-show photo shoot by Joel Sackett. Tickets are $50.

On July 5, the 1946 classic movie “Gilda” will fill the screen at the Lynwood. “Gilda” stars Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. An interview Q&A with Glenn Ford’s son, Peter, begins at 7:30 p.m., followed by the film. Tickets: $10.

The Lynwood Theatre is at 4569 Lynwood Center Road, Bainbridge. Info: www.lynwoodtheatre.com.

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