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.

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Okay, but… will there be chocolate popcorn?
No doubt about it. This was a must-have for us!

When will you reopen?
We plan to open later this year.

What kind of movies will you play?
The planned programming will be a mix of blockbuster studio films, specialty festivals and events, and first run arthouse—very similar to previous Cinerama programming.

What’s the history of the Seattle Cinerama Theater?
The venue first opened in 1963 but met with declining business and faced demolition by the late 1980s. Paul Allen purchased the theater and began a series of renovations, creating a destination theater for blockbuster first-run movies and a variety of film festivals. The venue closed following Allen’s death and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pursuant to Allen’s wishes, it was earmarked to be sold with all Estate proceeds to be dedicated to philanthropy. All parties believe that SIFF’s ownership is the best possible outcome.

Why do you have to change the name?
Vulcan/The Allen Estate licensed the name from the original owner when it reopened 20+ years ago, but did not own the name “Cinerama.” The original terms of use of the name stated that upon sale, the name reverts solely to the owner and cannot be transferred with the property.

What will the new name be?
Ideas are percolating! We will announce the new name later this year.

How was this acquisition financially possible for SIFF?
SIFF was presented with an exciting opportunity to acquire the Cinerama in late 2022 and is very grateful for the dedicated board members and donors who supported this dream with financing. Without these generous funders, this simply would not have been possible for SIFF. In the coming months, SIFF will need even more community support as we move forward with a Capital Campaign to raise funds for first year startup costs.

SIFF is a non-profit, and this acquisition was something we hoped for, but would not have been possible without external funding. These designated contributions, the Wyncote foundation, the Paul Allen Estate’s generosity, and passionate funders made this possible for SIFF and for the community.

Will you honor my Cinerama gift card purchased pre-pandemic?
We cannot honor Cinerama gift cards purchased for use at Cinerama up until the theater closed in 2020. Rather, customers can claim a refund through the Washington State unclaimed property division via the WA Department of Revenue.

Will there be any Seattle International Film Festival screenings at the Cinerama this year?
No. See our Festival Venues page for the complete list, and view the full Festival details and lineup at

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