Seattle Cinerama

2100 4th Avenue,
Seattle, WA 98121

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

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Seattle’s Martin Cinerama opened in 1963 using the original Cinerama 3-strip projection technique. But with a shift underway towards 70mm projection, the theater 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 theater switched to more conventional 35mm projectors. Eventually Cineplex Odeon took over operations. By 1997, the theater was struggling and developers swooped in with plans to repurpose the theater.

Very quickly, Seattle Cinerama lovers began a grassroots effort to save the theater. A year later, Paul Allen (of Microsoft fame), bought the theater for $3 million. Soon after, he orchestrated an immense restoration project that enhanced the theater’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 theaters in the world. This beautifully restored shrine to Cinerama is now one of the most technologically advanced movie theaters ever erected. In the Fall of 2014 it was closed for remodelling, reopening in November 2014 with a reduced seating capacity of 570.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 217 comments)

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 18, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Of the titles you mentioned, the last surviving 70mm print of Sleeping Beauty will be shown next month at the 70mm festival at Sommerville Theater outside of Boston. I’ve only read of Australia showing 70mm Ben Hur in recent years. El Cid had been reissued- in 35mm. This theater is showing some great titles including some not shown in the last festival. I’d love to see Apocalpse Now in 70mm! (which is included).

Zubi
Zubi on August 18, 2016 at 8:14 pm

Yes, Howard, I did see the SB item as well on the 70 site. Someone on FB even suggested they overnight the print from Sommerville to Seattle but that would be too much trouble and expense, I suppose. Besides, who knows if anyone important from the theatre really even reads those comments. Someone from the theatre may WRITE those comments! Many read like they’re written by shills (theatre staffers pretending to be patrons). I especially like those people pleading and begging for titles that have already been announced! Anyway, yes, prints are a challenge nowadays. But not having “Ben-Hur” is terrible. Terrible. “Hateful Eight” – “Inherent Vice” —– yipeeeee. Even the masterpiece “2001” – gorgeous and spellbinding to be sure, but how many times can one sit through that inside of five years? I mean come on!!!! Sorry, the whole feel of the schedule is lazy and uninspired.

Mike Tiano
Mike Tiano on September 18, 2016 at 2:09 am

My two-part article on the Seattle Cinerama has been published online, and thought both to be of interest to the folks here.

Part 1, titled “Seattle’s 70mm Film Festival Triumphs and Travails”, is a behind the scenes look that includes answers to some of the issues raised in this forum. The challenges in obtaining 70mm prints are not isolated to this one venue or festival; in this age of instant digital gratification through various formats it’s easy to forget that many titles for 70mm films may be in poor condition if they exist at all—though salvation may still be possible from exhibitors investing in striking new 70mm prints.

The Seattle Cinerama had done that with “2001: A Space Odyssey” for a festival run in 2014. The issue of variety is valid but to address one poster’s concern, sitting through a damaged, faded print years ago will be surpassed by viewing a newer, more pristine print. There are some of us who can, believe it or not, sit through certain movies many times as most of us lack a gigantic screen in a cavernous room at home to accommodate 70mm and matching surround sound. For me when the 1998 restoration of “Vertigo” in 70mm is shown there I don’t think twice about whether I should see it. I can’t duplicate this experience at home, and one day it might not be available at all.

The movie being viewed is only part of the equation, with the other being the theatre itself. “Saving the Seattle Cinerama: Paul Allen’s Gift to Movie Lovers” covers how a billionaire valued history and culture over what could have been a far more profitable (and for some, obvious) quick property investment. This conclusion covers how the Cinerama process and futuristic vibe of the Seattle World’s fair spawned the theater that first featured that process, and how it became the stellar movie palace it is today.

Here are the links to the articles. As a longtime denizen and supporter of this site I hope the readers here enjoy these articles.

Part 1 (70mm Festival): http://somethingelsereviews.com/2016/09/13/70mm-film-festival-seattle-part-1/

Part 2 (History of Cinerama, the process and the theatre): http://somethingelsereviews.com/2016/09/14/saving-the-seattle-cinerama-paul-allen/

Zubi
Zubi on September 21, 2016 at 10:03 am

Mike – I read both parts of your article. Very enjoyable. Just a couple things to add to your comment above. Just as an fyi, “2001” was a bran new print in 2012 – not 2014. I agree, of course, with your remark that watching a pristine presentation can trump having already seen a movie. I caught “2001” at the Cinerama-Hollywood in the early 90s and it was scratched all to hell. So, seeing it again in 2012 in Seattle in absolutely flawless condition was a real treat. “2001” is a magnificent achievement in cinema that STILL looks more futuristic than much newer stuff, including its own sequel. It should be shown and often. But it is a long movie, one that many of us grew up with on television (remember the stereo simulcasts?), and one that many have now seen splendidly on the big screen more than once, so, just speaking for myself, I’m good to go for a while with that one. I would just really dig it if that most beneficent Paul Allen would go crazy again and splurge on something else. But that’s not to say this place doesn’t have great stuff. I don’t know if you were able to see “Patton” on Sunday, but it was something else. I also grew up watching that one on TV (it was my family’s first commercial video cassette). But seeing “Patton” on the big screen for the first time—and in stunning, very vivid 70—was an experience like no other.

Redwards1
Redwards1 on September 21, 2016 at 11:16 am

Thanks for the short comment on Patton. Was it shown on the Cinerama curved screen as the director & Dimension 150 process intended or was it shown on the flat screen? When Fox started allowing Todd-AO presentations to be shown on flat screens the process was considerably less impressive. I saw Can Can in Todd-AO at the Century Cinerama in Minneapolis & shortly thereafter at a reserved seat showing in Milwaukee, but the screen was flat & the presentation quite inferior though it claimed to be Todd-AO. Again, I saw Cleopatra at the Rivoli in New York on a curved screen & it was shown in Boston on a flat screen during the same initial release, both advertised as Todd-AO. I hope programming for the 70mm festivals can accommodate use of the deep curved Cinerama screen for films that were intended to be shown on it.

Zubi
Zubi on September 21, 2016 at 12:59 pm

It was only the flat screen, but still very impressive (best showing of the festival, at least of what I saw). Our boys depicted shredding through mud and snow, tank treads and mechanized juggernauts, the high-tech war rooms, wide landscapes with countless explosions, cool uniforms everywhere, and the general’s pageant-like entry into Palermo. It was like no widescreen spectacle I’ve seen before. Very modern and gritty but also epic and stunning at the same time. I think that there was some chatter on Facebook about why the theatre didn’t bring out their curved screen (logistics or money or something like that). But now that I’ve read your note, I wish, of course, that they would have. The Cinerama-Hollywood ONLY uses their curved.

pnelson
pnelson on April 28, 2017 at 7:16 pm

I saw a couple Cinerama films back in the day at this great theatre. 2001 was just one. I also saw Blade Runner in a cinerama sized similar process at this theatre in the 80’s and Days of Heaven here too in this similar process. Exit door to exit door width. Identical to cinerama. It’s great this wonderful place was saved from the wrecking ball. Only wish the UA 150 was also saved. Also a huge screen and the best presentation always. Have seen countless films there as well. Lets not forget the Orpheum, Music Hall, Coliseum, Palomar, Liberty, Wilkes, Northgate, and Egyptian in University. The Cinerama at least was saved.

Flix70
Flix70 on August 7, 2017 at 8:37 am

Seattle Cinerama’s annual 70mm Film Festival takes place August 24-Sept 6. For films, dates and showtimes visit https://www.cinerama.com/News/July-2017/Announcing-70mm-Film-Festival.aspx

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 7, 2017 at 8:50 am

One of the highlights of this year’s 70mm festival will be what seems to be the only surviving 70mm print of “Sleeping Beauty” Classic movies filmed in 65mm shown in what will likely be great prints will include 2001, Lawrence of Arabia, Khartoum, It’s a Mad (etc) World, Spartacus, West Side Story, Patton, Tron, and Baraka. Vertigo wasn’t exactly 65mm but is another classic filmed especially well, with a great print. More recent films entirely or partly filmed in 65mm include The Hateful Eight and Interstellar. 35mm blowups to 70mm (often including more surround sound than regular 35mm) include Top Gun, The Dark Crystal, The Thing, Aliens, Star Trek VI, Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman, Inherent Vice, and The Untouchables. If I have anything inaccurate, feel free to say so.

Flix70
Flix70 on September 27, 2017 at 11:49 am

In anticipation of “Blade Runner 2049” opening Thu., Oct 5, Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner: The Final Cut 4K Restoration” will get an exclusive one-week engagement @ Seattle Cinerama beginning Fri., Sept. 29. Three to four shows daily through Wed., Oct. 4. Lobby display cases will feature original BR costumes and a cyberpunk event will kick off opening night. More info @ https://www.cinerama.com/Movie.aspx?fc=5106000440&day=19976

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