History of the Theatre 1901-Present - Rivals
The Fox Everett, 1929-1933
In April of 1929 control of the city's six movie houses, including the Everett Theatre, passed from the Star Amusement Company to Fox West Coast Theaters, Inc., part of the nationwide chain of entrepreneur William Fox. Charles A. Swanson, former president of Star Amusement, stayed on as local executive while the new proprietors invested $55,000 in a renovation and remodel project that included a vertical electric sign for the northwest corner and installation of a Fox Movietone sound system. The "Fox Everett Theatre" was thrown open to the public on October 23rd, 1929.
That reopening took place on the Wednesday before "Black Thursday," the day of the Wall Street Crash. Fox's financial fortunes slid from bad to worse and in the spring of 1933 "Fox" disappeared from the theater's facade. With the other survivors, the Granada and the Balboa, it became part of the newly formed Everett Theatres Company. Swanson served briefly as vice president of this organization before returning to the grocery business from whence he had come. Plagued by business troubles, he took his own life in 1937, a newspaper obituary describing him as the man who once "owned all the theaters in Everett."
Shortly after the Fox sign came down a new, more contemporary marquee went up, with a reader board extending along most of its length. This slender band with its myriad lights was surmounted by a bright, simple sign identifying the theater as "The EVERETT."
An enduring fixture from the Fox era proved to be manager William H. Hartford, who was destined to serve in that capacity at the Everett Theater for almost twenty years. Brought to Everett from Bellingham, where he had been operating Fox chain theaters, Hartford once served as manager of Seattle's Orpheum Theatre. His tenure at the Everett from 1929 through 1948 was easily the longest in the theater's history.
Colby Avenue Rivals
In the mid-Thirties, the Everett Theatre received an impudent challenge from a small, slick, Moderne movie house which arose from the shell of a store building directly across the street. The Roxy opened in May of 1935 under the management of former Everett Theatre manager Chuck Charles. With the mischievous Charles at the helm, the 700-seat Roxy was to engage in gleeful rivalry with its more imposing counterpart across Colby for nearly forty years. Charles especially seemed to enjoy the role of apparent underdog, single-handedly taking on the Everett, Granada, and Balboa.
During the decade of the Depression, the ammunition for this rivalry was an embarrassment of cinematic riches. Gable and Garbo. Cagney, Bogart, and Robinson. Tracy and Hepburn. Harlow. Dietrich. William Powell and Myrna Loy. Carol Lombard. Bette Davis. Cary Grant.
This was the era of the gala movie musical and Everett audiences embraced the genre. Busby Berkeley, Astaire, and Rogers. Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald, Bing Crosby. And the wonderful Thirties comedies were well received, from Mae West and W.C. Fields to Will Rogers and the Marx Brothers.
Sometimes outgunned by blockbuster features at the Everett, the Roxy wooed and won the younger audience with horse operas starring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the Lone Ranger. Interestingly enough, both the Everett and the Roxy were scooped in March of 1938 when the Granada hosted Disney's "Snow White." It's uncertain just why the smaller house was chosen, but the picture's RCA-enhanced "Magic Voice of the Screen" sound system may have been more easily adaptable to the Granada's Vitaphone equipment and fixed screen than to the Fox Movietone setup at the Everett, where the screen was rigged to be raised and lowered.
Mickey Mouse was so popular that there was an Everett Theatre-based Mickey Mouse Club with its own newsletter as early as 1931. During the Thirties, it became standard operating procedure to fill out any bill with a couple of the irresistible rodent's adventures. Manager Hartford advertised these mouse cartoon multiples as "Mickey Mice."
Thirties classics like "Grand Hotel" and "The Thin Man" drew crowds in spite of the hard times. The timeless Universal monster films "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" and RKO's "King Kong" were popular cinematic fare. Errol Flynn's memorable "Robin Hood" was especially well-received locally, in part because the screenplay was co-authored by Everett High alum Seton Miller.
When the Everett Theatre scored impressively with "The Wizard of Oz," which played September 8-13, 1939, the Roxy countered with Cagney and Robinson crime dramas from Warner Brothers. The breathlessly awaited local showing of Selznick's "Gone With the Wind" also took place at the Everett Theatre in March of 1940, three months after the Atlanta premiere and prefaced by a week's worth of ads for advance tickets.
It was a time of great movie stars and memorable movies and for local audiences, the memories were fondly linked to the theater where they enjoyed those wonderful films.