This Month in Edmonds History: Princess Theater through the years

Princess Theater on Main Street, circa 1927.

My Edmonds News is proud to present a monthly look at Edmonds history, straight from the archives of the Edmonds Historical Museum. For the month of August, we’ll revisit 1929.

On Aug. 29, 1929, the first movie with sound was shown in Edmonds.  Broadway Melody opened to a packed house at Princess Theater that night, and admission prices were set to 35 cents to accommodate the theater’s new feature.

The debut of this talking movie timed well with the rest of nation; sound film technology had been making advances throughout the silent era, and by the end of 1929 almost all movies featured sound. In many ways, the Princess Theater remained at the center of local and national trends throughout its history.

The theater changed hands and was renamed several times before it was purchased in August 1921 by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas C. Berry and officially named “Princess Theater.”  The Berry family announced in May 1923 that they would build a modern theater on the north side of Main Street; the following November they held a grand opening of the new building, featuring music on the street by the Edmonds Band.

Over the years, Princess Theater has marked many of the major events in Edmonds’ history. In April 1928, Edmonds’ second major fire devastated the downtown area, burning parts of the theater and several other buildings. The theater, along with other businesses that shared the building, suffered approximately $1,000 worth of damage but was able to rebuild and open to the public again.

In 1932, as one of the first indicators that the depression had hit Edmonds, Princess Theater reduced admission prices to 25 cents.  The theater also participated in many wartime efforts. In 1942, it hosted a special bond show where manager Lionel W. Brown sold more than $14,000 worth of War Bonds. The following year, the theater held an Army Relief Fund benefit show and showed a free movie to aid in the sale of war bonds.

Following the war, the theater underwent several renovations, including the installation of a refreshment counter, new seats, carpet, screen and sound equipment. Operating today under the name Edmonds Theater, the building seats more than 250 people and shows first-run films daily. More than a building, it has contributed to the social history of Edmonds and remains a fixture of downtown life today.

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