The Grand Cinema’s presidential debate was officially a nonpartisan affair.
But the 145 people in attendance Monday night had a raucous party cheering on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as she sparred with Republican Donald Trump on two of the Tacoma theater’s screens.
“Hillary had a little bit of a hometown advantage,” attendee Jason Quackenbush said.
Quackenbush, 38, came from SeaTac to watch the debate. He thought Clinton came out ahead, and he had a lot of fun watching the candidates’ expressions on PBS’ split-screen broadcast.
“I think we just saw Donald Trump melt down on national television,” Quackenbush said. “He genuinely seemed a little unhinged at times.”
He thought moderator Lester Holt struggled to control the candidates, something echoed by attendee Sarah Briehl.
“I felt the moderator was not able to keep them on the question,” Briehl said. “But I don’t know how you do that differently.”
Briehl, 62, came from Puyallup to watch the debates in a group setting and found herself enjoying Clinton’s sense of humor.
“I was very pleased with Hillary Clinton presenting herself as so presidential,” Briehl said.
The Grand had planned to open just one 110-seat theater for the debate, executive director Philip Cowan said, but opened a second because of the number of phone calls employees were receiving about the event.
Before the debate started, Cowan gave a speech to each theater asking attendees to be courteous and not to boo.
“I have a feeling most of the way the boos would go,” Cowan said.
Instead, many of the sounds at the theater were of laughter, at Trump’s assertions or Clinton’s retorts.
Cowan considered the event a success and praised the friendly environment.
One man did leave the debate about an hour in, saying “I can’t take no more.”
It was unclear whether the presidential debaters or the crowd drove him to depart early.