By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“It was not old-fashioned in any way” after having been recently renovated, recalled Crall, 83.
“It was kind of almost crisp.”
The cinema, which was opened in 1916 with the silent-film Mary Pickford feature “The Foundling,” will be closed tonight by its Wenatchee-based owner, Sun Basin Theatres, after its last films, “RoboCop” at 7 p.m. and “Frozen” at 7:10 p.m., roll their credits at around 9 p.m.
The theater had stood for 30 years at 132 E. First St. before it received its postwar face-lift from its original Italian Renaissance-inspired design.
Its new look was hailed in an Aug. 7, 1946, story in the Port Angeles Evening News, the predecessor of the Peninsula Daily News, as draped in rich rose reds, blues and whites, with red being the predominate color.
“Its interior is decorated in the modern manner with a simplicity of design that contributes to the dramatic effect of the presentation,” the Evening News reviewed.
Crall said she vividly remembers the reds, especially in the plush carpets that lined the theater aisles.
The carpets had their own sparkling quality, Crall recalled, so theatergoers could see more easily as they found their way to their seats.
“Lighting effects, though not yet complete, are quite startling,” the Evening News said.
“The theater is equally impressive and captivating whether lights are on or dimmed.”
The Lincoln is the sole survivor of three built within mere blocks — and three decades — of each other along First and Front streets downtown.
The Lincoln witnessed the building of the Mack Theater across First Street in 1922, a movie and vaudeville house that later became The Olympian in 1949 and was torn down in 1969.
The site is now a parking lot to the west of Michael's Seafood & Steakhouse, 117 E. First St.
Across the alley from The Olympian at 116 E. Front St. in 1932 was the Elwha Theater with its Central American Mayan motif.
The Elwha Theater closed in 1957 as television started to shed its glow on living rooms.
Remnants of the Elwha remain above the ceilings of the building's current tenant, Captain T's Shirt Shoppe.
The theaters were built at a time when 35 mm celluloid beamed by huge, air-cooled projectors reigned supreme, and each flicker on the screen was a window into faraway lands, beguiling mysteries, fantastical worlds and newsreels.
After tonight, though, the lights that lit faces eager to be taken away by the magic of film will go out for the last time as the Lincoln Theater closes along with the end, locally and nationally, of the era of 35 mm film.
The North Olympic Peninsula's other movie houses all have converted to computerized digital projection.
Sun Basin Theatres said the estimated cost of $200,000 to convert from 35 mm film to digital projection technology was too costly, so it instead decided to close the theater.
Sun Basin also owns Deer Park Cinema, the 1990s-era multiplex on U.S. Highway 101 in east Port Angeles, and two theaters in the Wenatchee area.
All are to remain open.
Lease or sale
Sun Basin General Manager Bryan Cook has said the company intends to put the Lincoln up for lease or sale.
The company, which has operated the theater since 1971, bought the building in 2001 from the G.M. Lauridsen Trust for $162,000.
The building slid in value from $162,120 in 2012 — almost identical to its 2001 purchase price — to $159,221 in 2013, according to the Clallam County Assessor's Office.
The land value dropped 14.6 percent, from $84,000 in 2012 to $71,680 in 2013.
The theater's passing will be marked with a banner-like card signed by well-wishers that the Port Angeles Downtown Association plans to send to Wenatchee-based Sun Basin Theatres.
“I just think it's a shame that we're losing [the theater] and losing that bit of history that has been around for a long time,” said Kathy Monds, executive director of the Clallam County Historical Society.
The historical society has just enough Lincoln Theater artifacts from the 1920s and '30s to show what an important part of life seeing a film was back then, Monds said.
These pieces include monthly schedules of upcoming films, multi-page pamphlets summarizing movie plots and even tickets to free holiday ham giveaways held at the theater.
“This is what you did to bring people into the theater,” Monds said.
Crall said she remembers when each ticket would pay for a newsreel, a cartoon and a feature film.
Performed at Lincoln
Crall and her co-workers even got the chance to perform short song-and-dance numbers in between double features on the Lincoln's broad stage, always with encouragement from its longtime operators, Ed and Evar Halberg.
“Absolutely if you wanted to, and of course everybody wanted to,” Crall said of getting the chance to perform on stage.
“We just had a lot of fun,” she added. “Anything to entertain the audience, I guess.”
Monds said she saw the Lincoln as a way for people to experience both a feeling of community and escape through film.
“It was an opportunity to get out of your home and have a fun experience,” she said.
It's an opportunity Monds hopes will not be lost at the Lincoln forever.
“Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I hope someone in the community will be able to take that building and turn it back into a business that fulfills people's need to be entertained and feel good when they go out,” Monds said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executive Editor Rex Wilson and Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.