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Mystery solved? Old Bellevue theater’s missing dolphin

The pirate mosaic from the old John Danz Theatre in Bellevue lives on in the old theatre building in the offices of Sterling Realty. (Courtesy Sterling Realty)

When old movie theaters shut down, the projectors and seats often get cast to the wind or sold for use elsewhere. This can happen even when the buildings housing the theaters are preserved for other uses.

Bellevue’s John Danz Theatre, flagship of the old Sterling Recreation Organization, was built in 1961 and named for Sterling’s late founder by his son Frederic Danz. After more than 30 years as one of the largest and nicest cinemas on the Eastside, the John Danz screened its last film and sold its last bucket of bright yellow popcorn in the summer of 1994.

After the theater closed, the space was converted to retail and used for a Good Guys location. As part of the remodel, two well-known pieces of the theater’s interior décor were rescued by Sterling: a door-sized colorful bottle-glass mosaic of a pirate, and a life-sized statue of a dolphin (probably made from fiberglass).

A representative of Sterling Realty (a company descended from the old Sterling Recreation Organization) heard Seattle’s Morning News’ discussion about the John Danz Theatre and the dolphin on Thursday, and reached out with some good news and, unfortunately, some bad news.

The remodel of the John Danz Theatre building 20 years ago included construction of new offices for Sterling. The good news is that pirate lives on and is on display in an interior hallway in the Sterling offices. Shiver me timbers!

The bad news is that the dolphin found a new home on an enclosed outdoor deck atop the remodeled building. Exposed to the elements, the poor dolphin was ultimately damaged by water (“drowned,” according to the Sterling representative) and discarded into Davy Jones’ Dumpster – likely sometime in the 1990s or the early 2000s.

Arrrrggghhh!!! OK, this is sad news, but at least it represents some closure for those who have wondered about the dolphin’s whereabouts all these years. And, perhaps, it also represents some hope.

There’s always a chance that somebody out there might have rescued the dolphin from the Dumpster or the landfill.

Editor’s Note: We are still searching for a photo of the dolphin. If you have one, please send email to

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