Showtime in Tacoma, by Blaine Johnson and Tacoma Public Library’s Brian Kamens. (courtesy of TVTacoma's CityLine)


Stepping into the Pantages Theater transports concert go-ers back in time. For many, a trip to this theater offers the special opportunity to dress up and have a memorable night out. Although the theater offers an elevated experience, it is still a community theater at its core and is welcoming to all. Experiencing the theater empty is striking, and when a show is about to start, the energy is electric. In 1902, Alexander Pantages moved to Seattle, Washington, where he opened the Crystal Theater, a short-form vaudeville and motion picture house. In 1904, Pantages opened a second theatre in Seattle called The Pantages. In 1918, the Pantages Theater Tacoma opened. By 1920, he owned more than 30 vaudeville theaters and controlled, through management contracts, perhaps 60 more in both the United States and Canada. These theaters formed the “Pantages Circuit," a chain of theaters into which he could book and rotate touring acts on long-term contracts. 

  • 1,274 seats
  • Built January 1918
  • Designed in the tradition of the Palace at Versailles

In July of 1931, the marquee at the RKO Orpheum Theater (Pantages) shown brightly in the night. 

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Cecil B. DeMille's "King of Kings" was presented at the Roxy (Pantages) Theater March 22 - 26, 1948.






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July 12, 1974 was the grand reopening of the Roxy Theatre (Pantages). A family film, Disney's "Herbie Rides Again," was the first-run feature in the newly remodeled and refurbished motion picture theater.

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The intricately designed exterior designates itself as a beloved piece of Tacoma’s history, but what is found inside the space sets it apart from the Pantages. The Rialto has a history of featuring funky, eclectic performances, and has a little more of that beloved Tacoma grittiness. It’s an intimate setting to be immersed in sound and spend time with friends and neighbors. The name “Rialto” hearkens to a medieval covered bridge in Venice around which novelty shops were built, providing a de facto “entertainment district”. “Rialto’s” were plazas where the common man could go for fun, as “theatres” and “operas” were reserved for the wealthy. In the early 1900s, Rialto Cinemas were a chain of movie houses featuring “talkies”.

  • 742 seats
  • Built September 1918
  • Designed in the 1900s movie house tradition

Nearly leaping off the Rialto Theatre stage is the drummer of an 8-piece jazz band. 

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George Williams and eight College of Puget Sound Tamanawas ad department students parked in front of the Rialto Theater in April 1946. 

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Hundreds of children lined up outside the Rialto Theater to see Bette Davis and Douglas Fairbanks in "Parachute Jumper" and Will Rogers and Marian Nixon in "Dr. Bull." 


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broadway-center-for-the.jpgTheatre on the Square

Visually distinct from its historic counterparts, the industrial, modern, and bright architecture of the Theatre on the Square alludes to a creative space for community performances. Many say the black box-style theater is an ideal setting for actors and interactive events, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. The name of the newest addition to the theater trio speaks directly to the location and heart of the space. The Theatre on the Square is next door to the Pantages Theater and looks out on a recently renovated square that invites people of all generations to visit and play. This area bustles in the summer months, as it hosts the weekly farmer’s market. Once home to the fledgling Tacoma Actor’s Guild (TAG), Theater on the Square was designed for community arts and expression. Today, the space welcomes those searching for an intimate performance experience.

  • 302 seats
  • Built October 1993

For more information about Tacoma's Theater District visit