SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) Acquires Seattle Cinerama Theater

Cinerama movie theater. Seattle, Washington. Image license: Vulcan Real Estate. © Copyright 2014 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved.

SIFF announced this week its acquisition of the Seattle Cinerama Theater from the estate of Paul Allen.

The announcement was made by SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara during the Opening Night celebration of the 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival, which runs through May 21. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. 

The venue first opened in 1963, but went into disrepair and by the late 1990s was in danger of being demolished. Investor and philanthropist Paul Allen purchased and restored the theater, creating an unmatched destination for blockbuster movies, independent film, and a variety of film festivals and events.

The venue closed in 2020 and remained shuttered during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pursuant to Allen’s wishes, the Seattle Cinerama Theater was earmarked to be sold with all estate proceeds dedicated to philanthropy. 

SIFF will reopen the theater later this year under a new name. It will become the fourth venue run by the nonprofit organization, alongside SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and SIFF Cinema Egyptian.

SIFF has a long history of acquiring historic Seattle theaters including the Uptown Theater, which they reopened in 2011 as SIFF Cinema Uptown, and the historic Egyptian Theater in Capitol Hill, acquired in 2014 as SIFF Cinema Egyptian.

“We are honored to take on stewardship of this historic theater. It’s a film venue adored by the community and speaks to the critical role SIFF plays in bringing the power and art of film to diverse audiences across our region,” SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara said in a press release. “So many of us have experienced the magic of this theater, and we are excited to carry on the vision and impact that Paul Allen started so many years ago.”

“We are so pleased about SIFF’s acquisition of the theater,” said Jody Allen, executor of the Allen Estate. “They are the ideal mission-driven organization to now shepherd this very special place, bring more film and movie lovers to downtown Seattle, and steward the venue and its role in our community for years to come.”

“The iconic Cinerama Theater and SIFF are a match made for the big screen – and for an activated, revitalized downtown,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Our arts and entertainment venues are cultural anchors in our city. We’re ecstatic that this beautiful, historic cinema will once again open its doors to filmgoers across Seattle and the region, bringing renewed energy to our downtown and arts scene from popping popcorn to boosting our creative economy. We’re grateful to the Paul Allen Estate and SIFF for their partnership to produce this venue’s next era.”

Cinerama movie theater. Seattle, Washington. Image license: Vulcan Real Estate. © Copyright 2014 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved.

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