75-year-old with a facelift steals the show

The recently restored Eureka Theater lobby looks its best for its 75th birthday bash.
The recently restored Eureka Theater lobby looks its best for its 75th birthday bash.

By Molly Robles

Flapjack Chronicle

Eurekans got fancy-shmancy Sunday night, in tuxedos and vintage gowns.  Celebrants dressed to the ’39s (the year the Eureka Theater was built) for a double benefit party at the Eureka Theater.  The event combined the Humboldt Del-Norte Film Commission’s 2nd Annual Oscar Party with the Eureka Theater’s 75th Anniversary Jubilee Celebration.  As lovely as the evening’s attendees were, the evening’s shining star was the theater itself.  

“It’s the biggest movie theater between San Francisco and Portland,” said Wendy Petty, of the Eureka Theater’s board of directors.

The gleaming old-growth redwood bar was packed with party goers ordering classic 1930s cocktails like gimlets and martinis, shaken to perfection by Eureka Theater board member and theater restoration crusader Wendy Petty. Hors d’oeuvres from Cassaro’s catering were offered on silver platters.

The historic theater facade shines with a recently upgraded marquis and a promise of neon blade sign restoration soon to come.
The historic theater facade shines with a recently upgraded marquis and a promise of neon blade sign restoration soon to come.

Inside the expansive single screen theater, guests enjoyed a live telecast of the 86th Annual Academy Awards show on the big screen thanks to the newly purchased digital projector.  During commercial breaks in the ABC presentation of the awards show, theater technicians delighted the theater audience with clips of 1930s Academy Awards shows, classic films and vintage Looney Tunes.

The inside of the massive theater hinted at the “work in progress” status of the historic building.  Only some of the seats have been reupholstered and some were temporarily out of commission, but with seating for 1,000, the 300 or so patrons of the Oscar event were comfortably accommodated.  It is one of the few remaining historic theaters on the west coast.

Eureka Theater board member Wendy Petty plays the role of vintage mixologist at the theater's new art deco redwood bar.
Eureka Theater board member Wendy Petty plays the role of vintage mixologist at the theater’s new art deco redwood bar.

At the conclusion of the Oscars presentation, Humboldt Del-Norte Film Commissioner Cassandra Hesseltine took the stage, reminding the audience that the theater is not just a movie theater, but a performing arts venue.  Hesseltine drew names and awarded chocolate Oscars for successful predictions of Academy Award winners.  In her conclusion of the event, she proclaimed heartfelt endearment to the venue and its supporters.

“It’s pretty exciting to have this place here,” Hesseltine said. “We thank them for letting us hold the Oscars event here.”

The Oscar Party/Anniversary Jubilee presented the Academy Awards telecast, but it featured the 75 years of local history, five years of intensive restoration and the hope of further improvements in the near future.

Lupita Nyong’o seemed to directly address the theater restoration efforts in her Best Actress in a Supporting Role acceptance speech.  “No matter where you’re from,” she said, “Your dreams are valid.”  Even if you’re a 75-year-old theater in Eureka.

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