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Then and Now photos: Rex Theater

Mon., July 2, 2012, midnight

Once-elegant hall ended in squalor

The Rex Theater, decorated with an elaborate rococo plaster facade, opened at 326 W. Riverside Ave. around 1908 as the Empire Theater. It offered light opera, vaudeville shows and first-run silent movies in the midst of Spokane’s boom years. Remodeled as the Rex in 1912, the long skinny hall competed with several other downtown movie houses for moviegoers’ money. As its glory faded, cheap ticket prices kept it going through the Depression. During WWII, it was advertised as being “Open all night,” a place where servicemen, in town on leave or in transit to other places, could grab some sleep, a practice that was common in hotel and business lobbies around town. With only 200 to 250 seats, it was too small to get first-run movies. In the ’50s and ’60s, the 300 block of Riverside was part of skid row and the theater was notorious for showing X-rated movies. Spokesman-Review columnist Chris Peck wrote that few tears were shed when it closed in 1983. Peck described the end of the now-sleazy movie house: “A few dozen lonely losers filed out into the January night, the one cashier/projectionist turned off the soft drink machine and that was it.” The building was demolished in 1990. – Jesse Tinsley

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