A Sign
of Life

“ The new marquee is the completion of the crown jewel for the 5th Avenue Theatre … a process started 30 years ago. It is a symbol of the new beginning of this treasure which is vital to the vibrancy of downtown Seattle and our arts community. ”

William J. Nichols Board Member, The 5th Avenue Theatre

The 5th Avenue Theatre stands proud as Seattle's premier musical theater. A unique venue known for its Chinese-inspired design, the theatre opened in 1926 as a showcase for vaudeville and film. Since its renovation in 1980, the theatre has produced and presented top-quality live musical theater for the cultural enrichment of the Northwest.

After the renovation, the theatre, which ranks among the nation’s largest and most respected musical theater companies, still struggled to fairly represent its place in the community. The aged vertical marquee was removed because it had fallen into disrepair, and funds ran short before it could be replaced. In an effort to revitalize its position as a prominent local landmark, the theatre engaged NBBJ to give it the presence it lacked and so thoroughly deserved.

NBBJ sought to respect the tradition and culture of the 5th Avenue Theatre by reflecting the historical character of the Chinese-inspired interior while paying homage to the previous two marquees built in the 1920’s and 1940’s. To achieve this, the design team created a modern vision of the Forbidden City of Beijing, a common theme within the theatre itself, which gives the marquee a look and feel “of its time,” both past and present.

To keep things current, NBBJ designed a custom typeface and all of the lighting effects were accomplished using LED technology, including the scintillating light bulbs and “neon” lighting. What's more, the 2,000+ energy efficient LEDs require only 72 amps when the sign is fully lit—approximately one-fifth the electrical power consumption of a comparable marquee that uses incandescent and neon lights. The 60-foot-tall marquee has created a visually stunning destination landmark for the arts community and positively transformed the streetscape of 5th avenue in Downtown Seattle.