An inside look at SIFF’s plans to save Seattle’s beloved Cinerama theater 

Seattle City Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis got a special inside look at the Cinerama for the first time since the SIFF bought the property, three years after it shut down operations. In this first-of-its-kind video version of his podcast All Policy is Local, Councilmember Lewis talks with SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara about the acquisition and what the future holds for the historic theater.  

SIFF bought the Cinerama from the estate of Paul G. Allen. The announcement was made during the opening night of the 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival last month. SIFF plans to reopen the theater later this year.

According to SIFF, the venue first opened in 1963 to great fanfare but went into disrepair and by the late 1990s was in danger of being demolished. Investor and philanthropist Paul G. 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.

When the Cinerama reopens, it will be under a new name due to copyright issues. However, Mara says it 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.

This will be SIFF’s fourth venue, alongside SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and SIFF Cinema Egyptian.

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