Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, April 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 68° Partly Cloudy

Then and Now

Liberty Theater

The building on the 700 block of Riverside was once the Liberty Theater, built in 1914, and which served as a movie theater until 1954. An extensive remodel modernized the front of the building when it became a Lerner’s clothing store in 1955.

Image two
Image one
Image One Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library Image Two Jesse Tinsley The Spokesman-Review

Movie ticket prices can be outrageous, but in 1923, someone called the cops. Patrons claimed the Liberty Theater on the 700 block of Riverside Ave. jacked up the ticket prices for a new silent film, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, starring Lon Chaney. Manager Ray Grombacher argued that prices were clearly posted at the box office, but city ordinance called for a three day notice before prices could change. Grombacher was arrested to satisfy angry moviegoers. It didn’t keep him down for long. Businessman Levi “Al” Hutton had built the 900-seat theater for $150,000 in 1914. But when the theater went into foreclosure a few years later, Grombacher formed a company to keep it open. The house had a grand pipe organ to accompany silent films. Talkies, like Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer”, took over in 1927. Grombacher lost it back to the bank in 1932. The theater passed through several owners and showed its last movie around 1954. It was replaced with a Lerner clothing store, which lasted until 1992.

Recent in Then and Now