Last year when Jim and Arlene Coulson headed downtown to buy some of the Fox Theater seats as part of a fundraiser for the venerable Spokane movie house, they had a rough figure in mind.
“I thought we’d buy a few rows,” Jim says. “Of course, it got out of hand.”
“He always gets excited,” Arlene adds.
When it was over, the couple walked away with 29 of the old red seats. Today they plan to use them in a new home theater, which is nearing completion at their residence on Brown’s Mountain in Spokane.
Situated in a long, narrow room in the couple’s renovated pool house, the theater is large enough to house six rows of four seats each. Jim says they will use the extra chairs for spare parts.
“I was going to have an exercise room, but I measured and it was just the right size,” Jim says.
A plasma screen TV and a tiled buffet for entertaining guests will complete the home theater.
“We have a large family,” Jim says, referring to the couple’s three sons, two of whom live in the area, and nine grandchildren. “I was thinking we needed a few rows, about 16 seats, because of that.”
Arlene’s father, Harry Yost, accompanied the couple to the Fox fundraiser, an event that brought back fond memories of his ROTC days at nearby Fort Wright.
“He used to ride the streetcars over to the Fox to watch movies,” Jim says, adding that Yost was present on Sept. 3, 1931, a night when searchlights roamed the sky and the streets were packed with thousands of people celebrating both Spokane’s Golden Jubilee and the grand opening of the Fox.
Jim says he and Arlene, who have lived at their Brown’s Mountain home since 1970, have a soft spot for the theater.
“Arlene and I met at Boise Junior College in a drama class,” he says.
The couple say they also are seasoned movie buffs.
“We used to see every movie in town, but now we just see the good ones,” Jim quips, adding that the Fox was one of the theaters they used to frequent.
Built during the Great Depression by Fox West Coast Theaters at a cost of $1 million dollars, the Fox was the largest theater in town at the time.
Although the old movie house and performing arts venue has seen better days, the Art Deco treasure is now being restored as the home of the Spokane Symphony and a regional performing arts center.
Restoration is currently under way and the theater is slated to reopen later this year. Over the next two weeks the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture will host its “Fall in Love with an Old Theater” lecture series, including a presentation this evening by painting conservator Jeff Greene of EverGreene Painting Studios. Greene is currently restoring original decorative murals throughout the theater.
Next Tuesday Hazen Audel and Brian Westmoreland will present a lecture on Spokane’s early movie theaters, the story of the Empire Theater in Tekoa, Wash., and the use of the Art Deco style in movie palaces.
And on Feb. 20 the MAC will hold a benefit, “A Night at the Garland Theater!” including the 30-minute, 1921 silent film, “A Bear, A Boy and A Dog,” by former local filmmaker and star Nell Shipman. Proceeds will benefit the MAC.
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