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SIFF buys Seattle's historic Cinerama theater, plans to reopen later this year

The historic theater has been shuttered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEATTLE — SIFF announced Thursday it purchased Seattle's historic Cinerama theater and plans to reopen the venue later this year after it was shuttered in 2020.

SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara officially announced the deal during the Opening Night celebration of the 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival, which began Thursday and ends on May 21. Cinerama, which has been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, was previously owned by Paul G. Allen's estate. 

Cinerama will reopen later in 2023 under a new name, SIFF said in its release. 

The official terms of the deal were not released. 

“We are honored to take on stewardship of this historic theater," Mara said. "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. 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 Theater first opened in 1963 and grew in popularity until the venue was in danger of being demolished in the late 1990s. Allen bought the struggling theater at the time, renovated the building and maintained operations until Cinerama closed in 2020.

Cinerama will be the fourth venue run by SIFF, a nonprofit organization, joining the SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center, SIFF Cinema Uptown and SIFF Cinema Egyptian. 

“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.”

The Cinerama name was not part of the sale, so SIFF is currently considering its options for what to call this historic theater. 

SIFF has acquired historic Seattle theaters in the past, renovating the Uptown Theater and the Egyptian Theater in Capitol Hill.

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