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

Then and Now: Dishman Theater

The Dishman Theater opened in October 1938 with a capacity of 516. The opening night film was “Having Wonderful Time” and starred Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

A.T. Dishman spent approximately $50,000 to erect the concrete exterior. The theater was leased to Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Collins, who also operated a theater in Oregon. The Collinses installed almost $20,000 of equipment. The massive parking lot behind it could hold 600 cars.

Dishman arrived to the area in 1888, coming from Kentucky. He first ran a livery stable on Riverside Avenue near Post Street before it was destroyed in the great fire of 1889. He later started a granite quarry operation and a store in the area now called Dishman, just east of Spokane city limits, in 1895. According to his obituary, his granite helped build Sacred Heart Hospital, Gonzaga University, Fort George Wright and other early projects. He also went into the gravel and lime business.

The area grew with the completion of agricultural irrigation projects, which also spurred land sales, and the electric train from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene through the valley.

Dishman built a three-story business block at Appleway Boulevard and Argonne Road, but it burned down just as it was being occupied.

Dishman died in 1954 at age 89.

The theater was purchased by Favorite Theaters, which owned several others around the region, in 1954. Favorite later merged with SRO Theaters in 1972.

In 1976, Seattle-based Gaiety Theaters leased the aging movie house and began showing X-rated films.

In 1977, Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies seized a copy of “Deep Throat” and other adult films that allegedly violated the county’s anti-pornography law. At trial, Gaiety Theaters was acquitted each time and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the laws unconstitutional. Frustrated Spokane County prosecuting Attorney Donald C. Brockett told The Spokesman-Review in 1981, “They’ve consistently said pornography isn’t covered by the First Amendment, yet they’ve consistently struck down every attempt to do something about it.”

In 1989, the building was turned into Deja Vu Showgirls, a strip club that lasted more than 30 years, until it closed in 2023. The building was recently purchased by HRC Ministries, a Christian outreach that tries to help victims of human trafficking.