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SIFF acquires historic Seattle theater Cinerama

caption: Seattle's Cinerama
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Seattle's Cinerama
Juan Pablo Chiquiza / KUOW

During opening night at the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF announced that it has acquired the Cinerama movie theater in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood, and will reopen the theater later this year under a new name.

The announcement was made during the opening night celebration of the 49th annual festival, which runs through May 21.

Terms of the sale, from the estate of former Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, were not disclosed.

"We are honored to take on stewardship of this historic theater," 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."

The Cinerama first opened in 1963. It faced demolition in the late 1990s, but Allen purchased and renovated the theater, which went on to host blockbuster and independent films and became a landmark for film lovers in the downtown core.

It went through a massive renovation in 2014 to make it "the best movie theater in the world." It was updated with a new laser projector, modern sound system, leather seats, local food offerings, and a liquor license.

In February 2020, Cinerama abruptly closed. Moviegoers were told that the theater was shutting down for another round of renovations. Employees were laid off at a staff meeting. Theater officials said it would reopen later that year. By then, the Covid pandemic had emerged and theaters were not open. Cinerama's future has been uncertain ever since.

Cinerama will now become the fourth theater operated by SIFF.

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