One Common/Brown Theater Building

1003 First Street

Former bank and the Snohomish Theater, ca. 1985, Snohomish Historical Society
Brown’s Theater Section, Snohomish County Tribune, 1924
Dorothy Devore, “Hold Your Breath”, 1924,

This theater was built for both movies and live theater by J. L. Beardsley and leased to his nephew Lon Brown, who already owned four theaters. The opening on October 9, 1924, caused quite a stir downtown when the crowds waiting for the second show spilled out onto the street blocking traffic. The first feature was aptly named for a new business venture: “Hold Your Breath.”

“Thrill” pictures were very popular and the star Dorothy Devore, went on to make 25 features. More intriguing is the newspaper account of Lon Brown welcoming the audience in a close-up movie clip that ended with a vaudeville-hook pulling him off frame while saying, “Let’s Go!”

This was not the first movie theater in town. Going to the pictures grew in popularity throughout the 1910s into the 1920s, but the new Lon Brown Theatre (his spelling) could also present live theater with various backdrops and curtains stored in the fly loft, ready to be lowered into view on cue.

Struggling to survive into the 1960s, the theater sold out to a Seattle promoter who brought “Debbie Does Dallas” to Snohomish. Now it was the 1970s when it seemed all the stores remaining on First Street were bars. “You could count on at least one fight per shift,” officer Mike Lively said in a 2011 interview. As movies on videotape took over, the theater went dark.

In 1985, four area families stepped up and returned family programming to the venerable house, even dividing it to add a second screen in the balcony. Renamed the Snohomish Theater, maybe 15 years later it went dark too, sold again, and was remodeled as a retail operation — just one month shy of its 75th birthday.

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