The Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, also known as Moscow’s living room, started the new year with a new look.
The theater reopened early this month after being closed for major renovations. The biggest changes patrons will notice are 270 new ergonomic chairs equipped with aisle lighting. The magenta-colored seats feature cup holders and cast iron bases decorated in an art deco style. Three chairs, one in each section, have arms that open to the side to increase accessibility.
Designs and features were chosen to combine modern conveniences with vintage flair to maintain the ambiance of the historic venue, said Christine Gilmore, the center’s executive director.
“It’s such an iconic downtown facility, we wanted to make sure the interior matches the love and respect people have for it,” Gilmore said.
After the theater’s old blue chairs were removed, the purple-painted floor was ground down to remove layers of paint, bumps and pits. Latah Sanitation Inc. donated the time and labor to dig trenches for pulling in electricity to light the aisles. The finished floor is now a polished gray. The aisles and lobby will be carpeted within the next three months, Gilmore said.
Improvements also were made to the theater’s projection system.
The next step in the project will be replacing the theater’s 20-year-old screen.
“We’re trying to bring that technology up to today’s standard,” Gilmore said.
The Kenworthy reopened Jan. 4, the date it originally opened in 1926. In honor of that anniversary, it held a free showing of some of the first silent films ever shown there, a comedic short called “The Fighting Man” and a black-and-white “Felix the Cat” cartoon. This was followed by a screening of the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
The Kenworthy family kept immaculate records about the films shown at the theater, Gilmore said. “We Moderns,” a 1925 silent movie about three women who want to shuck tradition to become flappers, was the first ever shown there, but today it is considered a lost film.
Milburn Kenworthy, the theater’s original owner, traditionally showed a free film each year. He also was known for letting students in free to see films during wartime when they couldn’t afford to pay. In lieu of payment, he asked for IOUs, which he never collected on, Gilmore said.
“Going forward, every Jan. 4 we hope to memorialize that spirit of kindness and generosity with a free showing,” she said.
Grants helped wrap up the renovation project more quickly than expected, Gilmore said. The most significant contribution was a $70,000 grant for facility improvement from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust of Vancouver, Wash. On Jan. 2, the theater received a $15,000 grant from Avista specifically for the screen.
“We hope people will come to the theater and see the improvements,” Gilmore said.