Seattle City Council approves funding for Cinerama re-opening, community programming 

Seattle City Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis and SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara inside the Cinerama Theater

The Seattle City Council voted to approve a grant to help SIFF re-open the historic Cinerama theater and provide public benefit programming there. Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis secured the funding as part of the Midyear Supplemental Budget.  

The $950,000 in funding will help SIFF re-open the Cinerama later this year. King County roughly matched the City of Seattle’s funding in an effort led by Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Joe McDermott.  

As part of the agreement, SIFF has agreed to provide a public benefit package. That 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.   

Where is this funding for the Cinerama coming from?  

Revenue from Seattle’s Admission Tax was larger than anticipated. Now, some of it will be used to fund SIFF’s Cinerama public benefit package.  

That admission tax is a 5 percent fee charged on ticket sales in Seattle. The vast majority of that funding must go to programs that support artists living and working in Seattle, like this.  

When will the Cinerama re-open?  

SIFF plans to re-open the theater later this year.  

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

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