4th Avenue Theater Anchorage

by Michael R Dougherty

A Grand Movie Palace

A Grand Movie Palace

It was the perfect place to see a movie in Anchorage, Alaska

Remember the first time you went to see a movie at Anchorage's famed 4th Avenue Theater.

It was a fun experience to just stand there on the sidewalk, and look at the colorful posters showing you what was playing and what would be playing in the weeks and months to come.

And as you approached the box office to get your movie tickets, you knew you were about to enter a special place.

With tickets in hand, you happily entered the theater.

Suddenly, you were aware of the delicious aroma of fresh popped movie theatre popcorn. And your eyes begin to take in the incredible sight of the theater's beautiful Art Deco style. Some say that the style was also Streamline Moderne and Art Moderne. But one thing is certain. The 4th Avenue Theater in Anchorage, Alaska was a special place to see a movie.

Then, before you looked at the rest of the theatre, you walked through those plush curtains to see what was playing.

And as you did, previews of that fun John Wayne movie “North to Alaska” began to play up on that silver screen.

As you took your seat, you looked up at the impressive Alaska murals that graced each side of the screen. And there was that beautiful North Star and the Big Dipper on the ceiling.

"North to Alaska” was a perfect movie to see at the 4th Avenue Theater.

Construction of the theater began in 1941, but was stopped because of World War II. It was later completed in 1947. The new theatre was a welcome addition to Anchorage.

What was your favorite treat when you went to see a movie?

Popcorn, soda, Flicks, Bon Bons, Jujubes?

Did you know that the original 4th Avenue Theater didn't have a concession stand.

Cap Lathrop, who built the theater, didn't think a concession stand would be appropriate. Aren't you glad a concession stand was added later?

Back in the theater, do you recall those extra large auditorium seats? I've heard different stories about why there were some oversized seats. One was that they were to accommodate larger theater goers, and another story was that the oversized seats were for a lady and her gentleman to share.

Remember when you took a break and walked out of the auditorium, through those plush curtains and into the lobby?

There it was, that wonderful concession stand filled with delicious treats.

And just off to the right of the concession stand was that grand staircase. A staircase so grand that it belonged up there on the screen, with Scarlett O'Hara gliding down its carpeted steps.

Once you were on the second floor, the Art Deco design continued to make you feel as though you were a special guest in a palace somewhere in Alaska.

The balcony was remarkable, and for many in Anchorage, it was the first theater balcony they had ever sat in to watch a movie.

While Anchorage had several other movie theaters, including the Denali Theater and the Impress, none were anywhere near as beautiful or special as the 4th Avenue Theater.

In 1960, the 4th Avenue ran the Disney movie, “Toby Tyler” starring Kevin Corcoran and a chimpanzee named Mr. Stubbs.

The theatre had been advertising the movie for some time. So, when the big Saturday afternoon Anchorage premiere arrived, our mom drove us downtown and dropped us off next to the sidewalk outside the 4th Avenue theatre, where a considerable crowd had already formed.

By Anchorage standards in those days, it was a mob scene, with kids of all sizes jammed in front of the theater box office waiting to get their movie tickets.

Many years later, on a date with my future wife Mary, we discovered that both of us were in that mob outside the theater waiting to see “Toby Tyler.”

For those of us who lived in Anchorage, Alaska back then, the 4th Avenue Theater holds a special place in our hearts.

It was Anchorage's movie palace – it was our movie palace.

The last movie Mary and I saw in that grand theatre was a re-release of “Gone with the Wind”.

Mary and I took our daughter Nikki and son Christopher to see the movie at a theater that meant so much to Mary and me when we were growing up in Anchorage.

These days, when we see a movie on TV, we ask each other, “did you see this at the 4th Avenue Theater in Anchorage, Alaska?”


4th Avenue Theatre Memories

What are your memories of the 4th Avenue Theatre?

You'll love this special e-book about Anchorage's favorite movie theatre.

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Aug 15, 2023
Flying Monkeys at the 4th Avenue Theatre
by: Patrick Durand

My grandfather took me to see the premier showing of "The Wizard of Oz" at the 4th Avenue Theatre.

Not sure of the year but, those flying monkeys scared me!

Later, at 10 years old or so, my older cousins would catch a ride in from Palmer for an afternoon double header at Mulcahy Park. Then off to the soda fountain at Hewitt's on the corner of 4th and E.

The sun was still shining so off to the 4th Ave Theater for what ever was showing.

The day was not over until we walked west on 4th past Northern Commercial Department Store, and the Anchorage Times Building to a burger joint, The Milky Way that was open all night.

A burger with the works, fries, and a real milk shake served in the blender canister cost $1.10.

The sun was still shinning, so we would walk out to our little house at 12th and H street.

Everyone crashed in anticipation of another double header on Sunday.

TV was only on from 5 to 10 p.m. on one channel (KTVA channel 11).

Life was good.

Dec 11, 2022
Lost in the 4th Avenue Theatre
by: Michael Jordan

In the early 1950s, I went to the 4th Avenue Theatre.

I needed to use the restroom which was upstairs.

I got completely lost and went alone through a one-way office door. The people in the office had to take me back into the theatre to find my parents.

I didn't go back to the theatre again until I was in my teens.

Watching movies made me curious as to how movies were made. In 1963, the U.S. Army came calling, and they sent me to audio school in California, where I became a motion picture sound engineer.

After three years, I got hired at film studios in New York City until my retirement.

I am thankful for the 4th Avenue Theatre.

Feb 27, 2022
The Concession Stand
by: Anonymous

I worked the concession stand for most of my senior year of high school (1969).

It was a beautiful building, and I loved my time working there.

Aug 27, 2021
First Movie Shown at the 4th Avenue Theatre
by: Anonymous

I saw the first movie shown at the 4th Avenue Theatre in 1947.

The Jolson Story.

Jan 22, 2021
Love for the 4th Avenue Theater
by: Anonymous

When I was a teenager the 4th Avenue Theater hosted a Fur Rendezvous story telling.

I was so happy it was being held there.

I always felt special seeing movies there. Like I had the privilege of seeing a film or something in a palace.

I still so very much have a love for that theater.

Oct 19, 2019
Epic Movies
by: Doug Brundage

Epic movies at the 4th Avenue Theater as a kid...

Mary Poppins, King of Kings, Lawrence of Arabia, Pt-109, Sword in the Stone (1964 earthquake).

I remember the ticket taker guy had a couple fingers missing. That scared me as a little kid. Tickets were $.50 ea

Mar 29, 2019
Saw Many of the Great Films at the 4th Avenue Theater.
by: Chuck Petersen

Wonderful theater.

You could watch a great film with the Big Dipper and North Star overhead.

It cost me 25 cents when I first went there.

Sep 16, 2016
A Great Movie House
by: JR Shackelford

In the summer of 1962 we moved up from Southern Louisiana to Anchorage, I was 9 years old.

We were staying at the Anchorage Westward hotel on 3rd St. We walked over to the 4th Avenue theater to see a Disney movie. I was amazed at how beautiful the walls were near the screen, and wondered how they were made.

As the years went by and overtime I would go to see a movie there. I loved the art work and how it showed how Alaska was making its way through the scenes of this art work.

Even to this day I still love looking at it, brings back very fond memories of my youth.

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