On January 7, 1918, the new Pantages Theatre, located at 901 Broadway in downtown Tacoma, opens its doors for the first time. Replacing the old Pantages on Pacific Avenue, the new theater has a seating capacity of 1,186, and is designed by Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca (1889-1971), America’s foremost designer of theaters. Tacoma’s new Pantages is part of the Pantages circuit of vaudeville houses, which are owned and operated by Seattle vaudeville magnate Alexander Pantages (1876-1936). The Pantages circuit will eventually extend from the West Coast all the way to the Mississippi River, and into parts of Western Canada.
Although the venue was originally built to showcase Pantages vaudeville, the house had always been equipped to show motion pictures, which became its primary draw beginning in the 1930s. Eventually, after Alexander Pantages sold off many of his circuit houses (including the Tacoma Pantages) the venue became known as the Roxy, a name that stuck through the 1960s.
During its later years the theater lost some of its original luster, as did much of Tacoma’s historic downtown during that same period. Larry Bullis recalled attending the Pantages (then known as the Roxy) as a child during the 1950s, remarking, “The inside was painted overall with ugly green paint and the kids in the balcony used to drop stuff on the people below.”
Thankfully, however, the Pantages was not allowed to decay beyond repair, nor did it become a casualty of downtown revitalization. Restored to its former glory in 1983, the venue (renamed the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts) now anchors a new and vibrant downtown Tacoma, one teeming with a variety of cultural activities.