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2016 Best of Olympia: Capitol Theater

Best movie theater, best sign, best all-ages venue

Photo courtesy Capitol Theater

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The Capitol Theater, home of Olympia Film Society (OFS) and your choice for Best Movie Theater, Best Sign and Best All-Ages Venue, is a place where miracles happen. In just the last two weeks, Dan Rather relived his downfall at CBS News, a second-generation clone met her genetic ancestor, and a man transformed into a wolf before our very eyes. This weekend, an intrepid beagle will pilot a Sopwith Camel into the skies over war-torn France. This is a hall of dreams, where "Silver Screening" revivals of beloved classics like Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde unspool alongside such contemporary Oscar fare as The Danish Girl and Spotlight.

Booking those wonders, mingling cinematic escapes with live, often local entertainment, is a constant challenge.

"We're always gonna have financial challenges," explained Audrey Henley, executive director. "The movie business in general is extremely competitive ... We're competing with Seattle and Portland to get bands to perform here. I think it's healthy competition."

"We did have a great year," added Harry Reetz, program director. "We had Lucinda Williams, Neko Case, Jonathan Richman, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Iris DeMent - we've had amazing shows. But the radius clause makes a big difference. If somebody's playing in Seattle or Tacoma, they can't also play Olympia because it's too close, so being a tertiary market makes it very, very difficult to get big acts in consistently. Being a nonprofit means you can't take huge financial risks. We make miracles happen at that place. We do it for the love and the community."

Adding to these difficulties is OFS's commitment to release a printed programming calendar in sufficient time for its patrons to, as Henley said, "work their lives around it."

"Other theaters without a printed program - if a movie's doing well, they can extend the run," Reetz said. "We're locked in for eight weeks straight. If the Pixies call us up slightly after the print deadline and say, ‘We'd like to do a last-minute underplay,' sorry, Pixies! We just went to press. We've got Chi-Raq playing that day."

On the upside, advance notice allows for greater diversity of programming and full houses for revival events like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It must also be noted that OFS pays attention to longstanding requests from patrons: It now sells popcorn with genuine butter.

"It turns into a skating rink behind the counter," Henley sighed.

CAPITOL THEATER, 206 5th Ave. SE, Olympia, 360.754.6670,

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