Seattle Cinerama

2100 4th Avenue,
Seattle, WA 98121

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

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

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

After philanthropist Paul Allen’s death in 2018, in early-February 2020, it was closed for ‘refurbishment’ but in May 2020 it was announced that it would be closed for the “foreseeable future” and may not reopen, so the future of one of the world’s greatest single screen showcases is again uncertain.

On May 11, 2023 it was announced that the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) had taken over the building and it will be reopening in December 2023.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 253 comments)

MSC77 on October 10, 2021 at 7:22 am

Here’s the link to a newly-published 70mm playdate chronology for the Seattle region which, of course, includes numerous mentions of the Cinerama Theater.

neeb on May 11, 2023 at 8:33 pm


SIFF Acquires Seattle Cinerama Theater
Thursday, May 11, 2023

SIFF logo and the Seattle Cinerama Theater

Huge news! We’ve acquired the Seattle Cinerama Theater from the estate of Paul G. Allen and will be reopening later this year. This acquisition adds to our current venue offerings: SIFF Film Center, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and SIFF Cinema Egyptian. We look forward to stewarding this historic venue for magical moviegoing experiences well into the future—with all of you.

In the meantime, please enjoy the 49th Seattle International Film Festival in venues across Seattle now through May 21, followed by a week of select films streaming on the SIFF Channel May 22–28."

Mike Tiano
Mike Tiano on May 12, 2023 at 10:58 am

Thanks, Neeb! This is incredible news, and who better than SIFF to acquire it!

RussM on May 12, 2023 at 2:39 pm

That’s great news that the theater will finally be reopened. They said that the Cinerama name will be dropped, but I sure hope that they will retain the equipment to show 3 strip Cinerama films, as that is a bit of film history that deserves to be preserved.

Mike Tiano
Mike Tiano on May 12, 2023 at 5:50 pm

I wrote a couple of articles about the theater a few years ago. I may write a new one with the updates, and have other questions answered.

terrywade on May 13, 2023 at 6:11 pm

If they can’t use the Cinerama Theatre name they can change to SUPERAMA It will fit in the neon sign light. Go with a different color not red white and blue. I think the Cinerama Inc people will let them keep the name with a fee.

MSC77 on October 3, 2023 at 11:59 am

A new article has been published cataloging the 70mm presentations of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The Seattle Cinerama gets several mentions in the piece.

BigScreen_com on November 21, 2023 at 9:27 am

The theater is reopening in December as the SIFF Cinema Downtown:

Seattle, WA: Former Seattle Cinerama Theatre Reopening in December as SIFF Cinema Downtown [Nov 21, 2023]

Redwards1 on November 21, 2023 at 9:29 pm

So what is the status of the Cinerama deep curved screen and projectors? I have seen both 70mm presentations combining the 3 Cinerama original 35mm reels on a single 70mm strip, and the 3 projector process itself at the Cinerama Dome in L.A. The big difference was actually the soundtrack transfer to 70mm which did not duplicate the awesome original that required 3 projectionists plus a separate sound operator. The L.A. Dome has a very steep projection angle from high up. Seattle had a better curved screen and 70mm projection location, hopefully both are intact. You cannot duplicate the Cinerama effect on a flat screen.

JackCoursey on November 22, 2023 at 5:51 am

Since the SIFF was unable to secure the rights to Cinerama, it is doubtful that they can use the 3 projector process. As for the curved screen, according to the former operators, it was a labor and time intensive process to install and could only be used with film (not digital) presentations. At best, Seattle can hope that the 70mm will be used as frequently as possible. The flat screen, to it’s credit, is immense and looks great in showing both film and digital.

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