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The History of

the  ELSINORE THEATRE​

The Artistic Center of Salem

Since its completion, The Elsinore Theatre has attracted audiences from across the region to rich entertainment. Silent cinema, vaudeville, drama, Mickey Mouse Club meetings, big-production dance shows, talkies, music, and community events — all shared this stage; extending our reputation for quality. After too many years languishing as a mere movie palace, The Elsinore has reclaimed its rightful place as the cultural and artistic Center of Salem.

Take a video tour of the Elsinore

with tom hewitt

How well do you know our history, our mysteries, and the famous names to play our stage? Follow the entire story of this grand theater in three chapters; brief tours hosted by Tom Hewitt that will surprise and inform you.

A Historical Timeline

1926
the Elsinore Theatre opened
On May 28, 1926, on the site where a livery stable had once stood, the Elsinore Theatre opened as a silent film house and vaudeville venue. Inspired by European castles, the Elsinore was the most beautiful theatre in the West and the only theatre with a foyer in the classic Gothic “nave and aisle” design in the world.
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1926
1926
The Showplace of The Willamette Valley
On the evening of May 28, 1926, people traveled from throughout Oregon to witness the splendor of “The Showplace of The Willamette Valley.” The Elsinore’s atmosphere was both mysterious and theatrical. Every seat was filled for two showings of Cecil B. DeMille’s movie “The Volga Boatman,” accompanied live by the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. The next day D.H. Upjohn wrote in the Capital Journal, “When the grandsons and granddaughters of those who are now infants in the cradle have graying hair, The Elsinore will still stand, immutable, imperishable, a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”
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1926
1920s
vaudeville acts
Oregonians traveled from throughout the Mid-Willamette Valley and beyond to see touring vaudeville acts and the sparkling Fanchon and Marco stage revues, making weekly stops at The Elsinore along their west coast tours. Their casts included unknown actors later to gain fame, including the legendary ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his frequent companion, Charlie McCarthy.
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1920s
1920s
legendary actors & actresses
When Clark Gable was working in a Silverton sawmill, he practiced lines for auditions on The Elsinore stage; Otis Skinner, Ethel Barrymore, Harry Lauder and the John Phillip Sousa Marine Band were some of the attractions that drew crowds.
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1920s
1929-1951
A movie Theatre
The Elsinore was leased to Fox Theaters and Warner Brothers Theaters and operated as a movie theater.
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1929-1951
1940s
Mickey Mouse Club
Young people from far and wide came to the Elsinore on Saturdays to be entertained by The Salem Area Mickey Mouse Club known as “Zollie’s Gang.” They would see cartoons, newsreels, short westerns or comedies, performances by their peers, and they would sing together. Memories of those matinees have lasted entire lifetimes.
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1940s
1954-1979
Declining Condition
The Elsinore existed as a second-run movie house, her bones declining.
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1954-1979
1980s
Preserving the Elsinore
Demolition planned, the Save the Elsinore Committee (SEC), a community group of preservationists, formed and established a nonprofit raising $130,000 for repairs to bring the historic building up to code for use as a performing arts venue.
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1980s
1993
performing arts venue
SEC merged with Salem Community Auditorium Committee to create STAGE (Salem Theatre Auditorium Group Enterprises) and raised enough funds to buy the theater, thus establishing it as a performing arts venue that began welcoming Hollywood stars to perform live on stage, such as Gregory Peck, Bonnie Raitt, Bernadette Peters, James Earl Jones and Itzak Perlman.
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1993
1994
Historic Places
The Elsinore Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places
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1994
2002-2004
Return to Grandeur
After a major effort to raise $3.4 million, the Return to Grandeur renovation project began with work happening over three summers and in 2004, the Elsinore Theatre was restored to its former glory.
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2002-2004
2013
The Mural
In 2013 Dan Cohen was hired by Friends of Mattingly Mural to repaint the historic mural in Salem, OR originally painted by Jim Mattingly in 1984.
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2013
2026
100 Years!
Elsinore will celebrate its 100th anniversary!
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2026