Cinerama sold to Seattle International Film Festival, scheduled to reopen later this year

SEATTLE — The historic Seattle Cinerama theatre finally has an update and it’s a big one.

After closing in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, questions have swirled about the future of the historic venue.

At opening night for the 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara made the announcement the theater has been acquired by SIFF from the estate of Paul Allen.

“We are honored to take on stewardship of this historic theater. It’s a film venue adored by the community and speaks to the critical role SIFF plays in bringing the power and art of film to diverse audiences across our region,” said Mara. “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 Seattle Cinerama first opened in 1963 but fell into disrepair. By the late 1990s, the theater was in danger of being demolished until investor Paul Allen purchased and restored the theater.

The theater is scheduled to reopen later this year under a new name and become the fourth venue run by SIFF, alongside the SIFF Film Center, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and the SIFF Cinema Egyptian.

Mara tells KIRO 7 News that the new name will come from input from the people of Seattle and a movie for re-opening day has not been picked yet.

“We are grateful for the leadership of our board, and especially David and Linda Cornfield, who helped make this acquisition possible for SIFF. Our tireless board and generous donors continue to be stalwart supporters of SIFF and the entire Seattle film community,” Mara added.

All proceeds from the sale will be dedicated to philanthropy, per Paul Allen’s wishes.

“We are so pleased about SIFF’s acquisition of the theater,” said Jody Allen, executor of the Allen Estate. “They are the ideal mission-driven organization to now shepherd this very special place, bring more film and movie lovers to downtown Seattle, and steward the venue and its role in our community for years to come.”

And while the theater may be getting a new name, Mara promises the famous chocolate popcorn will stay.