The 4th Avenue Theatre (Anchorage, Alaska)

4th Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska

The 4th Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska, is a movie theatre and Art Deco gem, built far from the eyes of most of the world and after the heyday of the style.  Also known as the Lathrop Building, the theatre was designed by Seattle architect A.A. Porreca for Cap Lathrop, the Alaskan politician/industrialist known as Alaska’s first millionaire.  The 960 (1100 including the balcony and all available seating) seat theatre was built between 1941-1947.  It operated as little more than a theatre from the late 40s till the middle of the 1980s.

The lobby of the theatre prominently features a gold leaf mural of Mount McKinley.  One thing that all theatres have today, that the theatre did not originally feature in the lobby was a concessions stand. While we often think that it is an important part of the theatre experience, Lathrop considered the inclusion of a concessions stand to be wildly inappropriate.

Then main house was decorated with silver and gold murals by Los Angeles artists Anthony Heinsgergen and Frank Bouman.  One of the most notable pieces of their artwork is a giant rendering of the Big Dipper on the theater floor.  It is important that this particular feature is so prominent since the Bid Dipper is a common symbol of Alaska.

As the Lathrop Building, the complex included facilities for Lathrop’s radio and television stations, a restaurant, and a penthouse apartment added in 1960. In the late 1980s the theater was falling into disrepair and was no longer in use so the city of Anchorage stepped in an attempt to renovate the theater.  After the failed attempt to take over the theater by the city, it was briefly used by a catering firm and banquet facility.

In 2006, the city of Anchorage tried to purchase the property and make it into a meeting space for the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Because of the economic downturn though, it was not able to take possession of the property and it sat, wasting away for another five years before being purchased by Peach Investments.

The Alaska Historical Commission, in 2017 unanimously voted that the 4th Avenue Theatre “is found to be significant to Alaska historic and cultural heritage.”