Future of Seattle Cinerama remains unclear, as petition circulates to save iconic theater

Seattle Cinerama halted renovations and closed its doors indefinitely in May of 2020, citing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis as one of the primary factors. With theaters, restaurants, and other entertainment venues having been fully reopened for months now, many are wondering when or if Cinerama plans to return.

In February of 2020, the theater said it would close for renovations, promising at the time to “reopen late this year ahead of the year’s biggest films.” Most of its employees were laid off at that time.

Three months later, it announced that it was extending its closure “for the foreseeable future,” over the “devastating effect” the early days of the pandemic wrought on entertainment and event venues in Seattle. Vulcan Inc. — the owner of Cinerama founded by the late Paul Allen and currently being run by his sister Jody — also announced plans to close its arts and entertainment division and filmmaking entity by the end of 2020.

Since then, it’s largely remained in limbo. Details on the status of Cinerama have been few and far between in the 18 months since it shut its doors, with a Vulcan spokesperson telling MyNorthwest on Wednesday that there are still “no updates to share.”

In the face of that uncertainty, a “Save Cinerama” Change.org petition has been circulating online for the last three weeks, having gathered over 4,200 signatures and counting. It calls on Jody Allen to “invest in this historic theater’s future and get it back up and running,” while advocating for a historic landmark designation from Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods to head off any potential attempts to demolish the building.

One of Seattle’s oldest movie theaters, Cinerama first opened in 1963, quickly becoming a local favorite for moviegoers to watch big-screen films. In the 1980s and 1990s, Cinerama entered a state of disrepair. Vulcan bought Cinerama in 1998 and financed a major renovation with a new sound and speaker system to create an immersive theater experience, before reopening in 1999. The theater also closed for renovations in 2014 to install state-of-the-art technologies, new seats, displays from Paul Allen’s personal movie collection, and updated concessions.

The most recent renovations it had planned before its indefinite closure included new carpets, general wear-and-tear fixes, and further updates to its menu and concessions.