A $950,000 grant could soon go towards Seattle’s historic Cinerama Theater



(The Center Square) – The Cinerama Theater in Downtown Seattle may receive a needed financial boost from the Seattle City Council with a proposed $950,000 grant.

Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis sponsored the legislation to partner with the Seattle International Film Festival, better known as SIFF, in supporting the purchase and operation of the historic Seattle Cinerama theater. SIFF previously announced it had acquired the theater from the estate of Paul G. Allen on May 11, 2023. The organization added that the theater will be reopening later this year.

The $950,000 in grant dollars would stem from the Arts and Culture Fund in the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. Lewis signaled that the funds would go towards the purchase of a building in the South Lake Union District and to support SIFF’s programs and services intended to contribute to building community through the arts.

The proposed funding would be supported by Admission Tax revenue, which came in higher than anticipated in 2022 and is available for this purpose as a one-time appropriation, according to the legislation.

Lewis’ legislation was passed out of the Seattle Finance and Housing Committee on Aug. 2. It is now set for a full city council vote on Aug. 8.

“I am grateful to my colleagues for their support in advancing this critical investment to re-open the Cinerama and activate our Downtown,” Lewis said in a statement. “The public benefits unlocked by this proposal will further strengthen our reputation as a center of film culture.”

King County Councilmember McDermott proposed similar legislation that would have the county roughly match Seattle’s funding. The full King County Council will vote on the ordinance on Aug. 15.

“SIFF is honored that this space, which has provided a truly powerful experience for filmmakers and film lovers alike, is now in our hands – these funds would make it possible for us to open the theater’s doors to the public as soon as possible,” said SIFF Executive Director Tom Mara. “We’re very eager to see the seats full again and to elevate what this space can do for artists, theater-goers, and the city at large.”

The Cinerama theater opened in 1963, and was permanently closed to the public in 2020 by its previous owner during the COVID-19 pandemic. SIFF plans to reopen it later this year with a new name due to trademark licensing.



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