It’s time for the second act at a beloved Seattle movie theater.
The former Cinerama is now SIFF Cinema — for now, at least — as new signs went up Thursday on the Belltown building that SIFF took over from the estate of Paul Allen in May.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), SIFF called it an honor to put its name where the Cinerama signs once hung.
“We do not take for granted how special it is to see SIFF’s name on the exterior of this iconic building,” the @SIFFNews account wrote. “And we can’t wait to welcome you back into this space. Stay tuned, stay cool, stay (choco-) poppin’ — more to come soon.”
Update: According to SIFF, the name on the signs is not final, and will be changed when a permanent name is chosen, presumably before the theater’s official reopening.
SIFF won’t have to wait long to welcome people back — the GeekWire Summit is taking place at the theater on Oct. 19. Our annual technology conference, now in its 12th year, will be a half-day format, focused on the new era of artificial intelligence.
In addition to in-depth panels and fireside chats, this year’s GeekWire Summit will include unique opportunities to connect, and will feature a surprise movie screening and, of course, the theater’s world-famous chocolate popcorn!
SIFF announced on May 5, at its Seattle International Film Festival, that it was purchasing Cinerama from Allen’s estate. The acquisition by the nonprofit film and education organization ended more than three years of uncertainty for the historic downtown theater.
The Cinerama originally opened in 1963, just a year after Seattle hosted the World’s Fair. As suburban multiplexes eventually gained in popularity, Cinerama’s ticket sales declined. By the late 1990s the single-screen theater had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being demolished.
In 1998, Allen, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, stepped in to save a place that he loved as a child. After a multi-million-dollar renovation, the Cinerama reopened in 1999. The theater became a destination for blockbuster first-run movies, cult classics, and several film festivals, including the Science Fiction, Classic Films, Horror, and 70mm festivals.
Allen poured more money into the theater over the years, before his passing in October 2018. The Cinerama closed in February 2020 for repairs on what was called “normal wear and tear” at the time, but the closure became more permanent when COVID-19 dealt a crippling blow to businesses that relied on being together in public.
The trademarked Cinerama name and the licensing agreement to use it went away with the sale to SIFF. SIFF said Allen’s Vulcan Inc. took possession of the signs and will find their next home.