Film organization SIFF has acquired the Seattle Cinerama theater from the estate of Paul G. Allen. The announcement was made by Tom Mara SIFF executive director during the Opening Night celebration of the 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival, which runs through May 21. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
“We are honored to take on stewardship of this historic theater. It’s a film venue adored by the community and speaks to the critical role SIFF plays in bringing the power and art of film to diverse audiences across our region,” said Mara. “So many of us have experienced the magic of this theater, and we are excited to carry on the vision and impact that Paul Allen started so many years ago.”
The venue first opened in 1963 to great fanfare but went into disrepair and by the late 1990s was in danger of being demolished. Investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen purchased and restored the theater, creating an unmatched destination for blockbuster movies, independent film, and a variety of film festivals and events. The venue closed in 2020 and remained shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pursuant to Allen’s wishes, the Seattle Cinerama Theater was earmarked to be sold with all estate proceeds dedicated to philanthropy.
“We are so pleased about SIFF’s acquisition of the theater,” said Jody Allen, executor of the Allen Estate. “They are the ideal mission-driven organization to now shepherd this very special place, bring more film and movie lovers to downtown Seattle, and steward the venue and its role in our community for years to come.”
SIFF is Seattle’s leading year-round film organization that brings the best in international and independent film to the area with the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Cinema, and SIFF Education. The Festival will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024. SIFF has a long history of acquiring historic Seattle theaters including the Uptown Theater, which they reopened in 2011 as SIFF Cinema Uptown, and the historic Egyptian Theater in Capitol Hill, acquired in 2014 as SIFF Cinema Egyptian.
SIFF will reopen the theater later this year under a new name. It will become the fourth venue run by the nonprofit organization, alongside SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and SIFF Cinema Egyptian—all of which offer experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world.
“We are grateful for the leadership of our board, and especially David and Linda Cornfield, who helped make this acquisition possible for SIFF. Our tireless board and generous donors continue to be stalwart supporters of SIFF and the entire Seattle film community,” Mara added.
Later this year, SIFF plans to launch a capital campaign to leverage community investment in the organization’s long-term mission, programs, reach and impact across the region.