In the heart of Ballard, there exists a wondrous family-run, three-screen movie theater that delivers the audience back to a time when a night at the movies was an affair to remember.
The trip begins as you stand under the traditionally styled marquee at the Majestic Bay Theatre. After you purchase a ticket to your cinematic adventure, be sure to check out the handcrafted fused-glass fixtures (created by a local artist) in the lower lobby.
As you continue to your plush chair, you may notice a nautical theme that is prevalent throughout the building. This is a nod to the customs of older movie palaces in the Northwest, which all paid homage to the difficult lifestyle of the fisherman.
After taking your seat, a waterfall curtain rises at the start of the presentation – the largest waterfall curtain made in Seattle since the early 1970s. You won’t be bombarded with ads, as in most other cinemas around the world, you’ll only be treated to coming attractions. Upon the completion of the previews, the curtain falls and rises again to signal the start of the film.
In keeping with the legacy-style, before the film is a signature (a short identity film that plays before the movie). It is simple, a replaying of series of pictures taken by Eadweard Muybridge to prove that a horse’s feet don’t all leave the ground when they gallop (he was wrong).
The signature works perfectly for the theater, as owner Ken Aldadeff used to love helping out at his grandfather’s successful Thoroughbred stable – Eltteas Farms. Ken even named his company Eltteas Theatres in honor of the farm (Eltteas is Seattle spelled backwards).
The family vibe is apparent in every nook and cranny, especially at the beginning of certain shows. A few summers ago, I was there on opening day to see a big summer movie that was completely sold out. Before the previews began, Ken himself went to the front of the theater and handed out prizes to people who could answer movie questions, or those who were sitting in specific seats.
After the film has ended, be sure to check out other curiosities around the building. The restroom doors have likenesses of Ken’s parents, and the hallway on the third floor showcases annual top-grossing films and community events. One of the 100 pigs created to celebrate Pike’s Market’s centennial resided out front for a time, but now lives upstairs. The pig is dressed as a traditional movie usher on the front half, with popcorn painted on the other. Lastly, don’t miss one of the steerage benches used on the set of “Titanic.”
Whether you’re interested in the tradition of the place, or simply want to catch a movie at a convenient time, you shouldn’t ignore the chance to take in the wonders of this Ballard gem.