MYNORTHWEST LIFESTYLE

SIFF Cinema Downtown, formerly Cinerama, now reopen

Dec 14, 2023, 9:17 AM | Updated: 9:50 am

cinerama date movie reopening...

At opening night for the 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara made the announcement the theater has been acquired by SIFF from the estate of Paul Allen. (KIRO 7 News)

(KIRO 7 News)

When the Seattle International Film Festival, or SIFF, bought the Cinerama movie theater in downtown Seattle, it was a matter of time before the theater could reopen. Now, the day has come, and the chocolate popcorn will be flowing.

The beloved movie theater, now renamed to SIFF Cinema Downtown, has screenings starting Thursday with a showing of the new film “Wonka,” an origin story for the eponymous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character starring Timothée Chalamet.

Read more: Cinerama sign taken down: What’s next for the iconic theater and sign?

“We are honored to take on stewardship and reopen the doors of this truly historic theater,” Tom Mara, SIFF’s Executive Director, said in a statement. “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.”

Cinerama opened in 1963 but fell into disrepair, and by the late 1990s, the theater was in danger of being demolished until Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen bought and restored the theater.

The theater shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Per Allen’s wishes, the Seattle Cinerama Theater was set to be sold, with all estate proceeds dedicated to philanthropy. 

The King County Council and the Seattle City Council approved sending $2 million to SIFF to help renovate the Cinerama Theater. There is a public benefits package element to the grant that may include job creation and workforce development to support the City’s film industry. The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture will be required as part of the purchase to provide workers with living wages and jobs to have labor harmony agreements.

In a statement to KIRO 7, Tom Mara, SIFF’s Executive Director said, “We are honored to take on stewardship and reopen the doors of this truly 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.”

Mara also said the theater will be bringing back its famous chocolate popcorn. The theater is slated to play blockbuster studio films, hold specialty festivals and events, and show first-run arthouse films, Mara told Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis in a one-on-one interview.

Details on ticket sales are available here.

KIRO 7 contributed to this report

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SIFF Cinema Downtown, formerly Cinerama, now reopen