It’s a real marquee event

The Lynwood Theatre’s newly restored marquee officially will be lighted July 5.  - Julie Busch photo
The Lynwood Theatre’s newly restored marquee officially will be lighted July 5.
— image credit: Julie Busch photo

Lynwood Theatre marks 70 years with a restored marquee and classic movies.

For 70 years, the Lynwood Theatre has helped islanders forget their troubles, creating memories that scarcely fade with time.

Like many islanders, Ralph Munro can construct a timeline of his life via the theater’s showings. The Crystal Springs native, who went on to serve as Washington Secretary of State, was 5 years old in 1948 when his babysitter, Sally Warberg Dunn, took him to his first Lynwood movie for popcorn and a showing of “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch.”

“In the early ’50s, we went to the Lynwood Theatre to see the ‘news.’ Everyone had a radio, but very few folks had a television,” Munro wrote in recollections he shared with the theater management recently. “Before the main feature came on, they would show Movietone News from around the world. It was very interesting to see things in film.”

Movie-going changed considerably for Munro when he was in the fifth grade. He had his first “date” at the theater with Kathy Warner Dunn from Point White.

“I asked her to meet me at the ‘show.’ We always called it the ‘show,’ not the theater,” he said. “I told her that I would meet her INSIDE! Her mother never let me forget the fact that I was too cheap to pay her way into the movie.”

He did, however, buy the object of his desire a Baby Ruth candy bar.

“We still laugh about that,” Munro said. “When she turned 60 years old and was still teaching at Captain Wilkes school, I sent her a case of Baby Ruth candy bars.”

The theater will celebrate 70 years of delighting island audiences with gala events and a screening of period films, July 5-6 (see box, page 3).

Edna and Emmanuel Olson, who built what is now Lynwood Center, opened the theater on July 3, 1936, amid great fanfare. On the bill were “Times Square Playboy” and “She Couldn’t Take It.”

The Olsons sold the business to their nephew Glenn Nolta and his wife, Lucille, in 1950. They were in charge until 1982, when it sold to current owner Sam Granato.

The island’s first “talkie” movie theater was a treat. When the lights dimmed and the sound came up, islanders sat back in their seats, ready to fight alongside John Wayne, sway with Ginger Rogers or laugh at zany cartoon characters. For a couple of hours – or more – they jumped into the adventures that came alive on the big screen.

Live entertainment was a big part of the draw. Munro recalled talent shows organized by Eddie Rollins, then the Port Blakely postmaster at Lynwood Center, and Freddie Oertlie’s tumbling demonstrations.

“Kathy Warner Dunn, Dorie Larson and Leslie Englund formed the Lynwood Trio,” he said. “These classmates sang lots of songs and often won first prize.”

Munro also fondly recalled the cartoon matinees on Saturday mornings and action movies, which really got young boys going.

“When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, there was a John Wayne war movie playing. When it came to the machine gun scene of American troops shooting down all the enemy, another kid and I threw BB’s all over the crowd of movie-goers,” he said. “Glenn Nolta did not think that was too funny and kicked us out of the theater for one whole year.

“And the worst part was that before we could go back, 12 months later, WE HAD TO TAKE OUR MOTHERS TO THE MOVIE WITH US!

“That was awful.”

Growing up

The years have brought many changes to the film-going industry. Despite the deluge of multiplex establishments, rising costs and movie rental outlets, the 260-seat Lynwood has survived.

Its mainstays are loyal movie-goers Its mainstays are loyal movie-goers who support the foreign and independent films, documentaries and classics shown and embrace the charm of the theater – complete with fresh popcorn, real butter, live movie intros and speakers in the restrooms.

“There’s something about film. Once the theater goes dark, my outside world stops,” said manager TJ Faddis. “I don’t think anything will kill film. I’m certainly doing my part to keep that from happening.”

Faddis has planned a “blow-out” celebration July 5 to mark the theater’s 70th birthday.

Topping the evening event is the lighting of the marquee, painstakingly restored by her husband, Charlie, and his volunteer crew.

“It has taken a year to restore the marquee, to take down the rusted panels and replace them with stainless-steel,” said TJ Faddis. “The letters that spell the word ‘Lynwood’ were stripped and repainted. We put the neon back that was there.”

The only original piece missing is the “cute little decorative finial on top,” she said. “It came off in Charlie’s hand. Rust really had taken its toll on the top. Charlie did a redesign and brought the whole marquee up to code.”

Restoring the marquee puts the pride back in the theater, she said.

Jonathan Manheim and his wife, Leigh, have lived on the island nine years and love the Lynwood.

“I’ve always thought you could go to every movie that they show here and you wouldn’t be disappointed,” said Manheim, who enjoyed working on the marquee.

“Chuck was great about thinking this through,” he said. “He masterminded the whole thing.”

Faddis never actually took the marquee down, he added. And those are the original letters, which were repainted.

Only the “W” was replaced. The neon is new.

The purple letters stand out against the building’s red brick. Complementing it will be pink neon gas inside the blue tubes.

The all-volunteer marquee crew brought the restoration in at about $5,000.

The original estimate was in the $50,000-to-$100,000 range, Manheim said.

TJ Faddis is ready for the lighting, which will take place July 5.

The evening screening of “The Cameraman,” starring silent movie star Buster Keaton, will be “a big blowout” benefitting the Bainbridge Island Historic Society.

“We hired Dennis James to come and rented a theater organ at no small cost (to) fill that theater with music,” Faddis said.

“I love Buster Keaton. The first time I saw (that movie) I laughed so hard I hurt the next day.”

James is a “phenomenal” accompanist and the preeminent authority on silent films, she said.

He performs across the globe in his quest to keep silent movies alive. Known for playing “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” he’s a fixture at The Paramount in Seattle as well.

Frank Buxton will share stories of when he worked with Keaton and Ron Carlson will take charge of the reception, to be held next door to the theater and feature food from the Treehouse Cafe.

Audience members will take home a commemorative program, for which numerous islanders have shared their memories of the theater.

Concessionaires will don vintage uniforms, including pillbox hats, for this auspicious occasion.

After the show, everyone will file out, take a foot-long glowstick and hold it aloft in anticipation of the lighting of the marquee.

After the lighting, Joel Sackett will take a picture for posterity. Faddis hopes to hang a copy in the theater’s lobby.

The theater’s birthday celebration continues July 6 with special showings of the 1936 musical “Swing Time,” showcasing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

The Lynwood screened the film back in its day. This time around, the 5 p.m. performance honors anyone who ever worked at the theater and is open to the public.

Special guests have been invited, including an original owner and the first usherette.

“This is an open invitation to anyone who ever worked for Lynwood Theatre,” Faddis said. “They can see it on us and bring a friend.”


Marquee evening

The Lynwood Theatre celebrates its 70th birthday with two showings of the silent film classic “The Cameraman,” starring Buster Keaton, on July 5. The 5 p.m. matinee, with live accompaniment by Dennis James and a pre-show introduction, is $15.

The evening festivities begin with a reception – salad, light finger food and beverages – from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Lynwood Center. At 8 p.m., the party moves into the theater for free popcorn, soda and a commemorative program, pre-show entertainment by the a capella group Sound Wave singing hits from 1936 and special presentations by Frank Buxton and Dennis James and then the film, with live music by James.

A post-show lighting of the marquee, complete with foot-long glow sticks, follows. Joel Sackett will take a photo for posterity.

Tickets are $50 each, with proceeds benefiting the Bainbridge Island Historical Society.

On July 6, the Lynwood presents “Swing Time,” a 1936 talking musical starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The 5 p.m. screening salutes everyone who has worked at the theater throughout its history: ticket takers, popcorn makers, ushers, projectionists and cleaning crews. Bring a friend and get in free. Otherwise, tickets are $7.

The 8 p.m. showing features free popcorn and soda, a Lindy Hop presentation by islander Jesse Mittleman, a brief film intro and the movie.

Tickets for all these performances are available at the Lynwood, Bainbridge Cinemas and the Bainbridge Island Historical Society.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates