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At 100, Columbia City Theater Hopes To Become 'Must See' Seattle Venue

The Columbia City Theater, in Seattle, turns 100 years old this year. At various times throughout its history it's been part of Seattle's booming 1940s jazz scene, a neighborhood movie theater, a home for the punk movement, and an art commune. 

It closed.

It reopened in 2010.

Today, it's a music venue and bar. Its owners plan to celebrate its centennial throughout the year.

Interview highlights:

On history: “Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles: A long lineage of people who have stood on this stage. It was a vaudeville stage, so you had this combination of musical talent, and then you had comedy, and then you might have burlesque.”

On running a theater: “To be able to be an important venue operator, and to be able to be here, bringing back a piece of us and making sure it sustains for another century, I do feel like I’m on some kind of mission. There are days when I am having so much fun … and then there are days where we know we need to do crowdfunding, because the roof is leaking and water poured out of a pipe … and we’re looking at each other saying, ‘Oh my God, we bought a zoo; we’re out of our mind.’ But then the music starts, and everything gets awesome.”

On the value of preservation: “We can’t throw everything out from our origins. This also represents a piece of our humanity. It is imperfect and perfect at the same time, and that dichotomy is human. This is a sanctuary in here, just like a beautiful church or synagogue or mosque or temple. This is a temple of music, and when you destroy these things, you’re chiseling away at the core of who we are as human beings and as artists.”

Ed Ronco came to KNKX in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KNKX’s Morning Edition. Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government.