Washoe Theater, Montana – Amazing Historic Architecture

Located in Anaconda, Montana, the Washoe Theater is a historic gem offering memorizing Art Deco architecture and old school auditoriums with hanging curtains by the screen.

The theater has a rich history having been open for 85 years. Guests can still enjoy films in the theater today, and at an affordable price too.

Although it is certainly a great place to see a new movie without breaking the bank, many visitors note that just experiencing the theater itself is worth it. With interior designs done by Hollywood designer Nat Smythe, the theater is filled with gorgeous art and large chandeliers that hang from the ceiling.

Many moviegoers that they were just as entertained by the murals and decorations within the theater as they were by the film they saw.

So even if there aren’t any movies you are dying to see, it still may be worth visiting the Washoe Theater just to view the architecture.

washoe theater
Image: Larry Myhre

The History of Washoe Theater

Built on the site of two closed theaters, the Margaret Theater and the Sundial Theater – the latter of which burned down in 1929, The Washoe Company constructed a new theater there with plans of having the inside be filled with memorable architecture.

It was designed by architect Marcus B. Priteca and was the last theater to be made in the Nouveau Deco style, a type of Art Deco that combined the style of Nouveau with it.

The outside though certainly not unmemorable is quickly overshadowed by the inside of the building. Styled by Hollywood designer Nat Smythe, there are several eye-catching murals within the building lobby.

Fitting for Anaconda given its mining history, there is heavy use of copper in the building’s design. Carved ram heads also decorate the walls, giving the theater a distinctly western feel. 

Even within the theater itself are beautiful murals on the ceiling that guests can look up and see. The theater also has plenty of space, being able to seat 1,000 visitors.

A silk curtain also hangs by the screen, although it has never been taken down in a long time, due to fear that doing so would damage it greatly.

The theater also has excellent acoustics, being one of the earliest theaters designed with a high-fidelity audio system.

The Washoe Theater was built and finished in 1931 but didn’t end up actually opening until 1936, due to The Great Depression. With its lavish designs and rich interior, it hasn’t gone unnoticed, with the Smithsonian rating it as fifth in the nation for its architectural value.

Many people visit the theater for its history and unique interior design.

The Theater Today

anaconda's main street
Image: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

The Washoe Theater may not have the newest technology or any fancy IMAX projectors like many newly built theaters, but it still remains popular with many people today thanks to its history and cheap ticket prices.

Many visitors go to the theater not solely for the purpose of seeing a film, but rather to also experience the historic design of the theater.

Although it may not have the newest offerings in terms of projectors or seating, the theater still tries to stay up to date. Today the theater hosts modern films and also has begun offering 3D showings of movies, thanks to updating the 35mm film projector to a digital one in 2013.

So although the theater may be old, it won’t feel extremely dated. Plus, the memorable designs make seeing a movie here at least once well worth it, regardless of the quality of the movie itself.

If you’re ever in Anaconda, you should definitely check the Washoe Theater out. The cheap price of admission and the elegant designs inside make it a memorable experience.

Washoe Theatre Details

  • Address: 305 Main St, Anaconda, MT 59711
  • Capacity: 1,000
  • Contact number: 406-563-6161
  • Website:
  • Hours: 6:40 to 9:30 pm Monday through Thursday, 6:40 to 11:30 pm Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 10:30 pm Sunday.
  • Prices: $5 for adults and $4 for children under twelve. For 3D movies, the tickets are $7 for adults and $6 for children under twelve.

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