Cinerama Updates and FAQ

Updates about our path to reopening the Seattle Cinerama Theater.

SIFF Cinerama

Want to follow along about our path to reopen the historic Seattle Cinerama Theater? Stay tuned here and on our social channels @siffnews.

Want to provide support with a one-time or recurring gift? Make a donation to help us with reopening and first-year costs. Gifts support SIFF in reactivating one of the world’s most memorable cinematic experiences.


Have other questions or comments? Email us at


  • August 15, 2023 - The King County Council passed an ordinance that included $1,000,000 for SIFF in support of the theater's reopening. Many thanks to Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Budget Chair Joe McDermott, the King County Council, and all of our supporters.
  • August 8, 2023 - The Seattle City Council voted 8-0 to approve the budget amendment that includes a grant of $950,000 to SIFF in support of the theater's reopening, allowing us to open the doors to the public as soon as possible. Our thanks to Councilmember Andrew Lewis for leading this legislative effort and all who wrote it to the City Council on SIFF's behalf.
  • August 2, 2023 - Legislation sponsored by Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis to help re-open the Cinerama theater and partner with us to support public benefit programming passed a key committee vote. Thanks to the SIFF community for emailing Councilmembers in support of Lewis' amendment! Read the City Council news release.
  • August 1, 2023 - SIFF encourages its supporters to email Seattle City Councilmembers in advance of the Finance Committee's vote at 9:30am on August 2 on Councilmember Andrew Lewis' amendment to include $950,000 in the City’s mid-year supplemental budget for SIFF's reopening of the Seattle Cinerama Theater. Read more and get sample email text.
  • July 27, 2023 - Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis and Metropolitan King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Budget Chair Joe McDermott propose legislation to aid in reopening the theater in support of programming & activations for the public benefit. Read the press release.
  • May 11, 2023 - At Opening Night of the 49th Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF announces its acquisition of the Seattle Cinerama Theater from the estate of Paul G. Allen. Read the press release.

On this page: FAQ


Will there be chocolate popcorn?

No doubt about it.

When will you reopen?

We are aiming to open in late 2023. Community support is needed to help fund first-year costs. Consider making a one-time or recurring donation.

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. 

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?

We will be announcing a temporary name along with an opening date to the public in the coming months. With this, we will be announcing how the public will be involved in selecting a permanent name.

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. Consider a donation today.

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.

How will SIFF be using the City of Seattle funding approved in August 2023?

A sum of $950,000 was allotted in the City of Seattle’s mid-year supplemental budget, approved August 2023. These funds will make it possible to open the theater as soon as possible and help with:

  • Signage – New signage is needed to cover any instance of the Cinerama name/mark, due to the legalities of the trademark law that was a part of the agreement in acquiring the space.
  • Staffing - This will be one of the largest expenses to start this business, requiring 20+ employees to be hired and trained prior to opening.
  • Equipment Refurbishing - The theater is in beautiful shape, so no major renovations are needed, but we do need to refurbish equipment that had been sitting unused for three years including concessions, IT infrastructure and projection equipment, which will take time and funds. To get to the chocolate popcorn is more work than you would imagine!
  • Public Benefit Programs - A large part of the City funds will also be allocated towards starting and sustaining new programs outlined in the budget amendment, including new positions and internships as well as community outreach programming.

How can I help?

External funding was provided to make the acquisition finally possible for SIFF. We now need community support to get to a reopening date. A gift to SIFF will help us reopen sooner and preserve Seattle's cinema-going experience by supporting our mission. Make a gift now.