Built in 1926, the Auburn Avenue Theater was originally a bus depot, and has also been used as a movie theater and dinner theater. Since 2007, the City of Auburn’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Department has managed and operated the Auburn Avenue Theater under a lease agreement with JB Douglas.
During that period, minor improvements have been made to the Theater building and programs have expanded to include full-scale community theater productions. These stage productions provide artistic opportunities for youth, teens and adults. In 2018, the City presented or produced a total of 68 performances at the 250-seat Auburn Ave. Theater, selling a total of 13,000 tickets. Performances included touring groups from across the northwest including music, dance, comedy, tribute shows, the AveKids series, and full-scale theater productions. The theater is also used for private rentals.
The Auburn City Council has reviewed options for the theater several times over the last few years that included considerations such as purchasing the theater, extending the lease or seeking another downtown site. At the Auburn City Council meeting on October 21, the Auburn City Council voted to authorize the purchase of the Auburn Ave Theater from owner JB Douglas. The purchase, a total of $650,000, is the appraised value of the property ($570,000) plus one of the two years remaining on the lease, which was set to expire in 2021.
“This acquisition ensures that youth and adults be able to both participate in live theater as well as enjoy community shows that spur activity in our downtown core,” noted Auburn Parks, Arts & Recreation Director Daryl Faber. “In addition, staff will now be able to apply for grants to assist with Theater improvements, grants that were not possible without actually owning the building.”
“The City of Auburn received $500,000 in the 2020 State of Washington capital budget for improvements to the Arts & Culture building next door to the theater thanks to Representative Pat Sullivan’s office,” remarked Mayor Nancy Backus. “We can now work on seeking similar funding for the theater.”
The acquisition will preserve arts and culture in downtown Auburn and will continue to contribute to downtown vitality and livability. The theater is an economic tool in bringing people from across the region to Auburn. Audience demographics show that over 30% of the theater audience comes from Auburn, while 22% travel between 1-10 miles to get to Auburn, and the remaining 46% come from over 11 miles away.
Interior auditorium to be renamed The Jillian Douglas Auditorium
As the former Auburn Avenue Dinner Theater, the Douglas family spent many years and a great deal of money keeping the history and the legacy of the Theater alive in downtown Auburn. One of the people that spent countless hours at the theater was Jillian Douglas, wife of JB Douglas. She had a very respectable music career and had the backing to tour in Nashville. She turned down a major record deal as she wanted to be in Auburn, to be at the Theater.
As a tribute to his wife, the purchase agreement includes naming the interior auditorium the Jillian Douglas Auditorium. He will pay for two interior plaques to be installed as patrons enter the theater from either side of the lobby.
For a full listing of performances at the Auburn Ave Theater, check out www.auburnwa.gov/arts or call 253-931-3043
The above is an official announcement from the City of Auburn. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.