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Hidden gems: Blue Mouse Theatre

Cheap, quaint and great popcorn

The iconic Blue Mouse clock, complete with neon blue mice. Photo credit: Jackson Hogan

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Going to the movies in 2016 is sort of a depressing experience. You plunk down $12-15 just to get in, then $10 or more for popcorn, soda, candy, and whatever else you like to munch on. The days of sneaking in food are long past us. Then you sit down in an auditorium that looks just like every other chain theater, and watch whatever pretty-okay-I-guess-but-was-it-worth-$15 superhero movie. Now that you've arrived in Tacoma, why not think outside the box and try a more old-school cinema approach with the Blue Mouse?

According to its website, the Blue Mouse Theatre opened on Proctor Street back in 1923, before many other Tacoma landmarks like Frisko Freeze, the Tacoma Dome, and even the original "Galloping Gertie" Narrows Bridge. The cinema was a success, although it went through many name changes throughout its lifespan.

Fast-forward to the early 90s: The theater had been named the Bijou since 1980, and it was in danger of being run out of business thanks to the chain multiplexes that had begun invading Tacoma. In 1993, a group of preservationists calling themselves the Blue Mouse Associates, purchased the property and restored it to its pre-WWII glory. The theater name was returned to its original moniker, and the transformation was complete. 

Now, the Blue Mouse has a charming retro feel to it unlike many other cineplexes in the area. Sure, there are other old theaters that have kept their vintage style, even in Tacoma, but they're typically used for stage productions rather than showing films. Walking in, you feel as though you're about to see a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers flick rather than The Angry Birds Movie. There's even a piano on stage right beside the screen, a subtle homage to the Blue Mouse's silent-era origin.

So if they don't show silent films anymore, what films does the Blue Mouse play? The Proctor cinema is what is known as a "second-run theater," in which movies that have recently finished playing in the big chains like AMC and Regal play at a discount price. Who benefits most from this format? Your wallet: Instead of shelling out $15 per person, which can be pretty expensive if you go with the whole family, it's only $6, and a ridiculously low $4 on Mondays and Tuesdays! Sure, there are other discount theaters that can match those prices, but with those, you get exactly what you pay for: creaky seats, bad audio, and so on. The Blue Mouse gives you an absolute steal comparatively, with its gorgeous design and addicting popcorn. Unsurprisingly, like any other eccentric cinema, the Blue Mouse also screens the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show on the second and fourth Saturday of each month at midnight. If you need your Rocky fix, this is the spot.

Manager Sue Evans said that there truly isn't a better place in Tacoma to catch a movie.

"Folks like our family atmosphere, and having the best popcorn helps," Evans said. "When you're at the Blue Mouse, you're not just a customer, you're family."

Blue Mouse Theatre, 2611 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253.752.9500, check for showtimes

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