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 213 comments)

Giles on November 24, 2014 at 9:12 pm

so have any of you Seattle folk been to see the new Hunger Games movie? how does the new laser image look? how does the Dolby Atmos setup sound? How are the speakers configured since there is balcony seating? I’m thinking of trekking out to see the last Hobbit movie here.

egcarter on December 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm

I attended the Cinerama on the grand re-opening night. It’s a Total Stunner. And they have been selling out most of their performances since. The image with their laser projector looked like a 70mm print! Sound is phenomenal. Seats are wonderful… and such legroom! From someone who attended the Press Day demos (Brightest, sharpest, best 3D he’s ever seen… and he does that stuff for a living) Just go.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 18, 2015 at 4:12 pm

The J. Evan Miller collection of Cinerama Theater Plans lists six Martin Cinerama houses, including the one in Seattle, as having been designed by the architectural firm of Finch, Alexander, Barnes, Rothschild, & Paschal. It’s likely that Raymond H.Pack was only the local supervising architect for the project, FABRAP being located in Atlanta.

Zubi on August 18, 2016 at 5:48 pm

This place is great—a real asset for the West Coast. Chocolate popcorn. Remodels and upgrades. Festivals. But management and bookers are really not very responsive to their patrons ( doesn’t even have a message box anymore). They just posted their 70mm Festival schedule and it’s really a letdown. They were given so many wonderful suggestions on their FB page and, for the most part, didn’t take a one of ‘em. Where are the Samuel Bronston epics “El Cid” and “King of Kings”? The '59 “Ben-Hur”? “Logan’s Run” (multiple people requested that one). The Disney filmed-in-70s like “Black Cauldron” and “Sleeping Beauty”. Maybe a musical or two other than “Sound of Music”? There are some good titles, of course, but A LOT is rehashed from recent showings. And “Inherent Vice” is just plain BAD. They chopped two whole days off of their original schedule as well. Big time over-promised and under-delivered. Prints are out there too – you see them scheduled on all the time. Very disappointing.

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 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):

Part 2 (History of Cinerama, the process and the theatre):

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 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 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.

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