On a hot summer say, sometimes the best place to be is a cool, air conditioned theater, catching up on the latest Hollywood blockbuster. But the only thing better than enjoying a seriously good flick at the nearest IMAX is a unique trip to one of Idaho’s century-old vintage theaters to catch a movie, play, or unique show on a historic stage or big screen. This summer, mix it up a bit and take a break from the local theater for a different kind of viewing experience. Here are just a few of Idaho’s oldest vintage theaters for you to check out.
1. NuArt Theater, Moscow
Built by Milburn Kenworthy in 1935, the Nu Art was one of several theaters that Kenworthy developed in Moscow. Today, it is a beloved arthouse, movie theater, concert venue, and historic landmark. But although the building itself is historic in nature, the overall design of this unique theater reflects cinema's transition from elaborate decor during the silent movie era, to modern design after the arrival of "talkies."
2. Egyptian Theater, Boise
The Egyptian Theater is a stunning example of unique downtown Boise historical architecture. First opened in 1927 to resemble the newly discovered King Tut's tomb, the Egyptian has undergone many renovations since, with the most recent being in 1999 when it was returned to its original splendor. Egyptian murals cover the walls while ornate columns, carvings, and more accentuate the viewing experience, balcony included. The Egyptian is renowned for showing classic movies, often with special silent film showings accompanied by the Robert Morgan orchestral organ.
3. Schubert Theater, Gooding
Small-town Gooding is home to its own 1600-seat historic theater, which is currently undergoing a massive restoration by GREAT, Inc (Gooding Restoration for Entertainment, Arts and Theatre). Built in 1920, the Schubert was later transformed into the Gooding Cinema, with the original murals painted by Ernest Miller and gold leaf molding painted over to improve the viewing experience. GREAT's undertaking is meant to restore the stunning features of this historic landmark, including the balcony, seating, and lit marquee outside with hopes of showing plays and community performances first, and eventually movies as well.
4. Virginia Theater, Shelley
Constructed in 1897, the Virginia is Idaho's oldest functioning theater, built and named after the founder of Shelley's family. Like many early Idaho buildings, the theater burned down and had to be rebuilt in 1903, but today it houses live-action plays, performances, and the occasional movie.
5. Wilson Theater, Rupert
The historic Wilson Theater in downtown Rupert has long been an artistic staple and venue for the community. After undergoing an immense restoration starting in 2000, No detail has been spared in recreating the original art and architecture of this vibrant 100-year old building, and the acoustical masterpiece of the theatre is a delight, whether for movies, performances, or special events.
6. Colonial Theater, Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls is fortunate to have the arts trifecta of the Colonial Theater,
Willard Arts Center, and the ARTitorium. The Colonial Theater opened as a vaudeville and music stage in 1919 and boasted one of the largest performance stages in the Intermountain West at the time. After falling into disrepair during the latter half of the 20th century, an anonymous donor called the "Phantom" volunteered to match funds raised by the community for its restoration, completing the performing and visual arts center.
7. Star Theatre, Weiser
The Star Theater in small town Weiser is one of Idaho's earliest theaters that has remained in continuous use for its original purpose. Formerly used as a small forum for traveling drama troupes, the Starwas later transformed into a silent theater. Today, the Star houses the Illustrious Onionskin Players for seasonal performances in a fantastic throwback setting to theaters of yore, complete with immense tapestries and an art deco marquee.
8. Ramona Theater, Buhl
Labeled one of the last surviving buildings of the "movie palace" era of the 20s. Combining Spanish style with uniquely Islamic architectural elements, like the mosque-like dome. Baroque quatrefoils, crenelated battlements, and framed arches all combine for a beautiful exterior. Unfortunately, the interior has been painted over, though there has been talk of restoring the building, which dates back to 1928.
9. Panida Theater
The Panida Theater opened in 1927 in downtown Sandpoint; its name reflects the locale as an important part of the local community: PANhandle + IDAho. Distinctive architectural styling in a Spanish Mission style and lush furnishings of the Panida outshine every other building in the city, completed as part of a massive restoration effort in the 80s. Today, the theater hosts concerts, live performances, and more -- all while staying true to the unique artistic and historic character of Sandpoint.
10. Kenworthy Theater, Moscow
The opening of the Kenworthy as a public theater by the Kenworthy family took place in 1926, although portions of the building were in use as the Crystal Theater as early as 1908. After being remodeled and upgraded in the late 40s, the Kenworthy was later donated to the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, and now hosts everything from private movie screenings, to lavish galas.
Have you been to any of these theaters? What other theaters in Idaho would you recommend for an unforgettable viewing experience?
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