Legislation for City of Seattle to partner with SIFF, Cinerama passes committee vote

Legislation sponsored by Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia) to partner with SIFF and support the purchase and operation of the historic Cinerama theater passed a key committee vote today. 

“I am grateful to my colleagues for their support in advancing this critical investment to re-open the Cinerama and activate our Downtown,” said Councilmember Lewis. “The public benefits unlocked by this proposal will further strengthen our reputation as a center of film culture.”   

The Council’s Finance and Housing Committee approved including the funding in the city’s midyear supplemental budget today. It will now go to a full Council vote on August 8.  

How the legislation works

The legislation, sponsored by Councilmember Lewis, would allow the City of Seattle to provide SIFF a nearly $1 million grant to help get the iconic theater reopened and support programming and activations for the public benefit.  

The public benefit package could include, but is not limited to:  

  • Jobs created and maintained, including paid internships, commissioned art on the property, and other workforce development support for the City’s film industry.  
  • In-kind goods and services to the community with a focus on racial and social equity, including hosting film screenings and festivals that center Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) filmmakers, as well as offering educational opportunities to BIPOC youth, such as film passes and summer camps.   
  • Activation and revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood, including partnering with and highlighting other neighborhood businesses in the area.  
  • Commitment to preserving the Cinerama as an active operational theater and a regional destination for film enthusiasts.   

The legislation takes advantage of windfall admissions tax revenues that came in higher than projected to reinvest that money in Seattle’s cultural entertainment ecosystem. Under legislation proposed by King County Councilmember McDermott, King County would roughly match Seattle’s funding.  

The status of the Cinerama

SIFF announced that it had acquired the Seattle Cinerama Theater from the estate of Paul G. Allen in May at the opening night screening of its 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival. The historic theater, which opened in 1963, closed to the public in 2020. SIFF plans to reopen it later this year. The theater will have to be renamed due to trademark licensing.  

Councilmember Lewis got a sneak peek inside the theater in June. You can view that tour and listen to his interview with SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara on Councilmember Lewis’ podcast, All Policy is Local