Chehalis Theater Draws a Crowd Once More


Last Friday, the historic Chehalis Theater opened its doors to the public for the first time since 2008. 

Back in May, when new ownership and management took over the theater operations, the stated goal was to be hosting events by August. Although the actual opening was a few weeks behind schedule, management is hopeful that it will wind up being well worth the wait.

“It looks great,” said theater owner Ralph Hubbert. “It looks nice and she’s got everything squared away ... Just a few things to tidy up on the outside and she’ll be ready to go.”

Instead of a movie showing for the theater’s opening, manager Debbie Hamilton chose to bring in a musical act.

“It was just a soft opening with Chris Guenther just to see how everything looks,” said Hamilton, who estimated that there were about 60 people in attendance. “Everything went well.”

The choice to open with a concert rather than a film is indicative of the Hamilton’s plans for the theater going forward. It is her hope to curate a diverse space that can host music, movies and live theater just to name a few options.

Although Hamilton has not released her plans for the theater’s next event, she has previously expressed interest in showing re-releases of old films as well as opening the theater up on Sundays for Seattle Seahawks games on the big screen.

“I think the perfect weekend would be a Buddy Holly cover band with a car show out front and ‘American Graffiti’ on the big screen,” Hamilton told The Chronicle in May.

Upcoming shows will be advertised on the theater’s original light up marquee on the front of the building.

The Chehalis Theater is located at 558 N. Market Blvd. 


Catching Up:

In May Ralph Hubbert purchased the Chehalis Theater from Daryl Lund, who had owned the building for the past 22 years. Debbie Hamilton has leased the building from Hubbert and is in charge of the theater’s operations.

The building was constructed in 1923 and was originally known as the Beau Arts Building. Eventually Arthur St. John purchased the building in order to house his Ford auto dealership and the name was changed to St. John’s Garage.

In 1938 the building was renovated and reopened as the Pix Theatre, with seating capacity for 653 patrons. An earthquake in 1949 caused substantial damage to the building but did not put it out of commission, and the building was renamed as the Chehalis Theater in 1954.

The reels continued to turn at the theater up until 1988, when it was converted into a Video Time rental store. In 1994 Lund purchased the theater and began operating a flea market out of its chamber. Eventually Lund decided to revert the building to its original purpose and he continued to show movies there until December 2008 when the final credits rolled.

Today the theater is equipped with seating for 285 people on the lower level, and Hamilton says she plans to add tiered seating in the balcony for season ticket holders.

Although much of the old projector equipment was onsite when Hubbert purchased the theater, the plan is to use either DVD or Blu-Ray technology for motion picture showings going forward.