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 209 comments)

Giles on November 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm

that’s a lot of seats to lose.

Redwards1 on November 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm

If correct, going from 808 seats to 570 is an incredible loss of capacity. The cost of admission will surely be increased as a result. Although seats at the rear of the main floor and balcony diminished the effect of the large deeply curved screen, there are worse seats by far in other Seattle theatres, including reserved seat houses.

markinthedark on November 5, 2014 at 11:27 am

The Cinerama plays day and date with AMC and Regal multiplexes less than a mile away and also the 21+ Big Picture screening room a few blocks away. The next Hunger Games will play one at one of the multiplexes on several screens and likely and the Big Picture as well. So the seat reduction is not too big a deal. I have rarely seen it sell out. The added legroom will probably increase ticket sales even with a reduced seat count (as it has for AMC). Adding beer and wine will also certainly add revenue and ticket sales as well.

I only wish it had opened in time to play Interstellar in 5/70. Hopefully they will get a print for one of their 70mm festivals (if they kept the equipment!!!)

Redwards1 on November 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm

The Cinerama will never play to capacity as long as it positions itself in the same category as multiplexes & generic theatres. It is a unique theatre & should program itself accordingly. Why not sell mini-seasons of reserved seats to Cinerama & Todd-AO shown as only Seattle Cinerama can show them? Direct mail marketing to develop an in-house mailing/email list & other techniques used by reserved seat venues do not appear to have been used.

Giles on November 24, 2014 at 11:12 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 3:13 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 6:12 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 7:48 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 8:14 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 10:14 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.

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