Seattle Cinerama

2100 4th Avenue,
Seattle, WA 98121

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9-19-13 Cinerama screen for 70mm film festival

Seattle’s Martin Cinerama opened in 1963 using the original Cinerama 3-strip projection technique. But with a shift underway towards 70mm projection, the theatre was altered just a few months later, although the enormous curved screen was kept. It had a capacity of 808 seats.

The 70mm Cinerama screenings lasted until 1969, when the theatre switched to more conventional 35mm projectors. Eventually Cineplex Odeon took over operations. By 1997, the theatre was struggling and developers swooped in with plans to repurpose the theatre.

Very quickly, Seattle Cinerama lovers began a grassroots effort to save the theatre. A year later, Paul Allen (of Microsoft fame), bought the theatre for $3 million. Soon after, he orchestrated an immense restoration project that enhanced the theatre’s appearance and returned it to its roots—showing films in the Cinerama format.

Re-opened in 1999, the Seattle Cinerama Theater is now one of only three operating Cinerama theatres in the world. This beautifully restored shrine to Cinerama is now one of the most technologically advanced movie theatres ever erected. In the Fall of 2014 it was closed for remodelling, reopening in November 2014 with a reduced seating capacity of 570.

After philanthropist Paul Allen’s death in 2018, in early-February 2020, it was closed for ‘refurbishment’ but in May 2020 it was announced that it would be closed for the “foreseeable future” and may not reopen, so the future of one of the world’s greatest single screen showcases is again uncertain.

On May 11, 2023 it was announced that the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) had taken over the building and it would be reopening later in the year.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 249 comments)

Mark Boszko
Mark Boszko on May 31, 2020 at 6:28 pm

I’m glad I got to live here in Seattle while it was open, since I moved here in 2013. I never saw anything on the deep curved Cinerama screen (afaik still installed behind the modern, less-curved screen), but I’m grateful for all of the films I got to see there, including 2001. I hope someone steps in to rescue it.

Redwards1 on May 31, 2020 at 6:56 pm

Who is it that will actually decide the fate of the Seattle Cinerama? The city of Chicago purchased the iconic Chicago Theatre to save it.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 31, 2020 at 9:18 pm

I wonder what Paul Allen’s will had to say about his intentions for the theater

JodarMovieFan on May 31, 2020 at 10:03 pm

Based on what I am able to obtain from different online news sources, it appears Vulcan Inc., owned by the late Paul Allen attempted to renovate the theater (fix wear and tear items and adjust the concession disclosed tech changes) but stopped in Feb. Now Vulcan puts out a statement that the venue remains closed for the forseeable future and has shut down its arts & entertainment division.

The speculation now is Amazon may be interested in the venue for its own venture into the entertainment business as Netflix has bought the Egyptian in Hollywood. Sounds sensible, if this all turns out to be true.

I can’t imagine anyone dismantling what is in place now, including the 3 strip projection set up. Its just crazy. On the other hand, DC’s Uptown had a 3 strip set up way back when..and it is now currently vacant. Bezos, who has a large presence in DC owning the Washington Post and opening up a campus in Arlington VA, could take over that venue. The 3 strip set up could be transferred there and DC could have show Cinerama. Okay, that last part is my fantasy projection.

MSC77 on October 10, 2021 at 7:22 am

Here’s the link to a newly-published 70mm playdate chronology for the Seattle region which, of course, includes numerous mentions of the Cinerama Theater.

neeb on May 11, 2023 at 8:33 pm


SIFF Acquires Seattle Cinerama Theater
Thursday, May 11, 2023

SIFF logo and the Seattle Cinerama Theater

Huge news! We’ve acquired the Seattle Cinerama Theater from the estate of Paul G. Allen and will be reopening later this year. This acquisition adds to our current venue offerings: SIFF Film Center, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and SIFF Cinema Egyptian. We look forward to stewarding this historic venue for magical moviegoing experiences well into the future—with all of you.

In the meantime, please enjoy the 49th Seattle International Film Festival in venues across Seattle now through May 21, followed by a week of select films streaming on the SIFF Channel May 22–28."

Mike Tiano
Mike Tiano on May 12, 2023 at 10:58 am

Thanks, Neeb! This is incredible news, and who better than SIFF to acquire it!

RussM on May 12, 2023 at 2:39 pm

That’s great news that the theater will finally be reopened. They said that the Cinerama name will be dropped, but I sure hope that they will retain the equipment to show 3 strip Cinerama films, as that is a bit of film history that deserves to be preserved.

Mike Tiano
Mike Tiano on May 12, 2023 at 5:50 pm

I wrote a couple of articles about the theater a few years ago. I may write a new one with the updates, and have other questions answered.

terrywade on May 13, 2023 at 6:11 pm

If they can’t use the Cinerama Theatre name they can change to SUPERAMA It will fit in the neon sign light. Go with a different color not red white and blue. I think the Cinerama Inc people will let them keep the name with a fee.

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