Boise's Entertainment Gem- The Egyptian Theater


When driving by or walking down Main Street in Boise, Idaho, one may come upon a most unusual building. It is a sand colored exterior with dazzling scarabs and long, red and gold striped awnings. The windows open to reveal months of show bills, advertisements for events, and red floor to ceiling curtains. The marquee out front could read anything from the name of a famous comedian to the title of an old black and white film; this is the Egyptian Theatre. This is the striking building that has graced the center of Boise almost since the city began.

Many who have lived in the area for a while have been unaware of just how steeped in history this theatre is. Nowadays, there are many different events that take place within its walls. Currently, it serves as the perfect venue for various film festivals. On occasion, the Egyptian opens its doors to tours for elementary schools and other groups. Likewise, the Theatre has seen its fair share of silent movies, movie premieres, concerts by famous singers, plays by famous acting troupes, and local entertainment. It is available for rent for corporate events and weddings and other such parties, but what draws so many to this wonderful place to begin with? Could it be the charm of the past? How about the decoration and design? Looking back through time could shed some light upon why this place holds captive so many awestruck eyes.

The first show in the Egyptian Theatre (also known as the Fox in the 1930s) was "Don Juan". This showing started on April 19, 1927. It has been charming the masses ever since. This fantastic and historical building has been privy to many different stars since then and is well known as a gorgeous architectural slice of yesteryear. The 40's brought with them a new title - the Ada, but the name was permanently brought back to its original title by the time the 70s rolled around. In the late 1990s, Conrad Schmidt Studios performed a restoration that brought the initial sparkle of the Theatre back to life. Known as the Egyptian Theatre because of it's wonderful hints toward ancient Egypt's architectural styles and artworks, the folks working on the restoration did a careful and detailed job in maintaining the building's original integrity. Throughout the years, the lobby and the walls of the house had been painted a more neutral color, so the restoration included referring to the architects' original sketches for a more complete rendering.

Many performers have graced the stage of the Egyptian, and many events have showcased the utter majesty that is sitting in the theatre. As one looks toward the stage, one will notice the heavy emphasis on gold in the decoration and color scheming. Gilding can be seen peppering many of the finer details, but specifically highlight the scarab at the peak of the proscenium arch. Because of the way the theatre is built, the acoustics are a dream for any performer and especially for any audience member.

One question may arise while looking at the architecture that doesn't quite fit with other buildings found throughout the capital city: why was this stunning building themed as such? Well, the 1920s brought with them many changes and historical happenings, but possibly one of the more interesting was the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen- less formally known as King Tut. The air of mystery surrounding Tut's tomb, and the alleged curse that was said to befall anyone who dared disturb his slumber, continued to transfix the world. Many other theatre and buildings of the time were inspired by the Egyptian Pyramids and temples. One such building- Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California- is a building that took heavy influence from the expeditions held in Egypt. As such, it's sometimes speculated that the Egyptian Theatre located in Boise took notes from it's architecture and heavily relied on its auditorium as a blueprint or as a suggestion for how to build such a building with such heavy historical influences.

The Egyptian Theatre was likely one of the more fun and extravagant buildings to work on at the time. A magnificent tribute to the golden age of cinema, the Egyptian is one of the few standing "picture palaces" left in the Boise area from the roaring 20s. The architects who built the Theatre were quite well know throughout the area from 1910-1930s. John E. Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel are well known for many structures throughout Boise, but probably most notable in their portfolio is one of the most important buildings in Idaho- the Idaho State Capitol Building. The Theatre drummed up a lot of business and has maintained a great hold on the citizens of the area as a great place to go for a fun evening. These amazing architectural geniuses breathed life into the Egyptian in a way that has withstood nearly a century, even propelling it into a time where people can pull up any show or entertainment they want in a device that fits in their pocket. One reason that the Egyptian Theatre remains a prominent page in the history of Boise is likely because the desire for entertainment has never been extinguished. In today's world, people long for a night on the town and many have been transfixed with these old, fascinating buildings. The romantic enchantment of a night at the theatre will always hold a place in the hearts of entertainment lovers, and as long as the Egyptian is around, it will serve to fulfil the dreams of theatregoers who find themselves in the heart of Boise.