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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane’s historic Garland Theater welcomes movie fans in sold-out grand reopening: ‘People love nostalgia’

After a two-month transition, the Garland Theater’s new owners rolled out a red carpet for its sold-out grand reopening Friday night at the nearly 80-year-old North Side theater.

The theater has been closed since the end of 2023 after the business and property were sold in December to real estate developer Jordan Tampien.

Co-owners Chris Bovey and Tyler Arnold began efforts to purchase the Garland District property nearly a year ago. Tampien ultimately bought it but leased it to Bovey and Arnold, who own and operate the theater.

“It’s been almost a year, and to get to this point feels unreal,” Bovey said.

A line of people, young and old, stretched out the door and around the corner an hour before the showing of the Spokane classic “Benny & Joon.”

Nathan O’Brien and his son, Aaren, were waiting in the concessions line where popcorn, soft drinks, candy and other snacks awaited.

They first started coming to the theater 18 years ago.

“Tyler and Chris Bovey did an outstanding job with resurrecting a place that has so many special memories and feelings to people in the Spokane community, and we’re just excited to be a part of it,” Nathan O’Brien said.

Aaren O’Brien, 19, said he loves the theater’s “charm.”

“The fact that you can still go see an old movie in an old theater while still having that sort of twist and modern feel to it, it’s just unique and different,” Aaren O’Brien said. “And I love that people my age, who are below the age of 20, can still go and be able to experience that.”

Besides Friday night’s movie, patrons could sign up for the Movie Club, which is $5 and allows members to attend free movies on Sundays all year.

The theater was also selling movie posters and commemorative grand reopening posters in the lobby. Some moviegoers took photos in a 360-degree photo booth in the parking lot.

Matt and Carol Keller celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary Friday at the theater, which they’ve been coming to since they were children.

Matt Keller said one of his fondest memories was watching Walt Disney’s 1977 animated film, The Rescuers, at the theater.

“The Garland Theater is almost like a diamond in the rough in Spokane,” Matt Keller said.

He said it was nice to see various age groups enjoying the historic space Friday night.

“People love nostalgia,” he said. “Sometimes right now in the world today, we want to go back to being kids, the easier times, the easier days, so I think that means a lot.”

Carol Keller said she grew up near Corbin Park, just down the hill from the theater, so she often walked over to see a show for a good price.

“It was a great place to come hang out as a kid,” she said.

Arnold said the popular movie theater is part of his history, too, having enjoyed it for 35 years. He said he’s learned the building is a part of so many people’s childhood.

“When you come in the building, there’s 80 years of memories in here,” he said.

Arnold is also a part-owner of the Jedi Alliance, a comic book emporium, toy museum, arcade and event space. He said it’s “unbelievable” to now own the theater, which is what people want it to remain.

“It would be terrible if Spokane lost the Garland, and it’s not the building that people want to save, it’s the theater part of it that people are wanting to save,” he said.

Bovey owns Vintage Print & Neon, which is located next door to the theater.

He said the public overwhelmingly favored “Benny and Joon,” which was filmed in Spokane, to be shown at the reopening.

Bovey said other local films like “Vision Quest” and “Dreamin’ Wild” will grace the theater’s big screen soon.

“I can’t think of another neighborhood like the Garland District,” he said. “Garland District is just frozen in time, and it’s completely nostalgic.”

Bovey asked for the public’s continued support so the theater can thrive.

“Hopefully, we’ve given them something really cool to make them keep coming back,” he said.