Majestic Bay celebrates a dozen years in Ballard, switch to digital

By MEGAN MANNING, UW News Lab

The Majestic Bay Theatre might be a relatively contemporary addition to Ballard, but everything from the dramatic waterfall curtains to the looming old–fashioned marquee suggests otherwise. History and the present day are coming together for the independently owned business, which is celebrating two monumental milestones this season: the 12th anniversary of its reopening in October of 2000, and its recent venture of switching the movie–watching experience from traditional film projectors to digitally advanced technology.

“Change is always hard, but the reality is that everything about [the switch] long–term is positive,” says Ken Alhadeff, owner of Majestic Bay Theatres, about the decision to go digital. “You can build the film with a computer screen. All of the freight and huge cases of heavy film, they’re little boxes. And you can show DVDs. It is just a lot more flexible.”

Removing the obsolete projectors is bittersweet, though. The Majestic Bay has a long and distinguished history, stretching back to the early 20th century when it went by the name The Majestic. The theater name would change several more times, next becoming the Roxy and then the Bay in 1947, before its most recent reconstruction.

“I wanted to denote that this was a different theater, but part of the same,” says Alhadeff, who combined two of the previous names to form the Majestic Bay. History is an important factor for him. “I grew up with the American Theatre in the Seward Park area where I lived, and I loved my little neighborhood theater,” Alhadeff remembers. “Back then they were all single-screened theaters and it was just a magical Saturday. My friend and I would go with one dollar – that was 25 cents for each of us to get in, and the other 25 cents could buy us each five candies, because they were a nickel each.”

As the reporter for this story, I should disclose here that I have been an employee at the Majestic Bay for almost seven years. Not only has the experience prepared me for the challenges of the customer-service industry, but it has also shown me how appreciative the Ballard community has been of its presence. Disgruntled customers come with every business, but I feel like I have been fortunate to work at a place where this rarely happens.

“The Bay Theatre is full of some of the kindest movie-goers around,” agrees Brandon, another employee. “I couldn’t ask for a greater employer. Ken Alhadeff knows the true tradition of theater.” Monique Tran, owner of La Tienda, a folk art gallery in an adjacent building says it’s, “an anchor for the neighborhood, very community–oriented.”

The Alhadeffs had a classic vision of what the Majestic Bay should be: polished mahogany wood, granite counters and a sense of timelessness. They also had a dream: to see if they could actually build the finest neighborhood theater in the country. “I don’t know if we’ve achieved the finest movie theater in America,” Alhadeff shares. “But we might have. And that’s pretty exciting.”

(MEGAN MANNING is a student in the University of Washington Department ofCommunication News Laboratory.)


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