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Public Lecture | American Zeus: The Life of Alexander Pantages, Theater Mogul

February 15, 2018

March 1 | 6:30pm-8:00pm | University Bookstore

Alexander Pantages was 13 when he arrived in the U.S. in the 1880’s, after contracting malaria in Panama. He opened his first motion picture theater in 1902 and went on to build one of the largest and most important independently-owned theater chains in the country. At the height of the Pantages Theaters’ reach, he owned or operated 78 theaters across the U.S. and Canada. He amassed a fortune, yet he could not read or write English. In 1929 he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old dancer—a scandal that destroyed his empire and reduced him to a pariah. The day his grandest theater, the Pantages Hollywood, opened in 1930, he lay sick in a jailhouse infirmary. His conviction was overturned a year later after an appeal to the California State Supreme Court, but the question remains: How should history judge this theater pioneer, wealthy magnate and embodiment of the American Dream?

Join author and University of Washington lecturer Taso Lagos as he discusses the life and tragic times of this pioneering immigrant, including the antisemitism and immigrant stigmas that abounded in Hollywood during Pantages’ life.


Taso Lagos is a lecturer in the Hellenic Studies/European Studies Program at the Jackson School of International Studies. He holds a BA, MA, and PhD from the University of Washington. His research focuses on civic engagement and digital technologies, Greek-American media history, immigration studies, and nation branding