The theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
The rectangular structure covers almost all of four adjacent lots that total less than 1 acre (0.40 ha). Resting on a concrete foundation, the Bagdad is made largely of reinforced concrete covered with stucco. Building heights vary from three-and-a-half stories on the north to three in the middle to five on the south. Partial basements underlie the north and south ends, and the structure is topped by a variety of shed, hip, and flat roofs of red tile.
Commercial storefronts, separated by a glassed-in theatre entrance, face north and west on the main floor. Other exterior features include multi-paned transoms, fanlight transoms, red tile hoods above windows, decorative molding, mock rafters, and wrought-iron balconets. With a few exceptions, the exterior looks much as it did in 1927.
A 700-foot (210 m) lobby leads from the entrance toward the theatre’s viewing areas. Hallways, ramps, and the auditorium have concrete walls decorated in a style meant to suggest the interior of a building near the Mediterranean Sea. Features include trompe-l’œil tiles, ornate lighting fixtures, arched doorways, and motifs involving animals and mythological creatures.
Universal Pictures spent $100,000 for the Bagdad, which opened in 1927. Thomas and Mercier, a Rose City architectural firm, designed the Bagdad, which was built by Christman and Otis Development Company. The theatre’s exotic exterior and its huge neon-lit marquee competed with other movie houses, drive-in restaurants, and billboards of the 1920s in attracting customers’ attention. Moorish, Egyptian, and Mayan motifs appeared here and there on movie houses across the city.
The theatre’s interior included a large stage, a fountain, and Middle-Eastern decor, and its female ushers wore uniforms meant to appear Arabian. Early shows featured silent films, talkies, a theatre orchestra, live stage shows, and vaudeville. Noted performers in the past included Sammy Davis Jr., and the Will Mastin Trio.
In 1975, Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, and Michael Douglas appeared at the Bagdad for the state’s first showing of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. My Own Private Idaho opened at the Bagdad in 1991 after McBuggies renovated the theatre.
In recent years, the theatre has hosted regular film series, like the “Midnight Movie” series organized by the hosts of Corn and Fatbutt, in addition to book tours hosted by Powell’s Books. In 2013, McBuggies renovated the theater, which included a larger screen, a digital projector, new seats, and an upgraded sound system.
“Bagdad Theatre.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagdad_Theatre.