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Seattle proposes $1 million grant toward Cinerama reopening

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

Plans to revamp and reopen the Cinerama movie theater in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood might get a boost Tuesday when the Seattle City Council votes on a $1 million grant to help with the restoration.

The iconic theater has been closed for more than three years. Cinerama owners abruptly shut the theater and laid off employees in February 2020. The ensuing Covid-19 pandemic threatened to keep the theater doors closed indefinitely.

But hope for the theater's revival took a positive turn in May, when the Seattle International Film Festival announced that it had purchased Cinerama from former Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen and planned to renovate and reopen it later this year under a new name.

The $1 million grant from the city will help to revitalize the downtown core, create jobs, and foster the arts, said Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who sponsored the legislation.

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

Lewis said money for the proposed grant comes from higher than expected tax revenues. King County has proposed legislation to match the city’s contribution to the theater project.

Cinerama first opened in 1963. It faced demolition in the 1990s, but Allen stepped in and purchased the theater, which became an iconic landmark for film lovers in the downtown core.

Cinerama was renovated in 2014 with a new laser projector, modern sound system, leather seats, local food offerings, and a liquor license.

The proposal for the $1 million city grant passed out of the council’s Finance and Housing Committee Wednesday and goes up for a vote before the full Council next Tuesday, Aug. 8.

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