Quick question: Is Seattle still a movie town? I mean, in one sense, sure. Film production soldiers on in spite of an indifferent-verging-on-hostile state legislature. The Northwest Film Forum has a revitalized approach to event-based programming and continues to program excellent small-gauge independent work from around the world. The Scarecrow Project won a Stranger Genius Award last year. The Egyptian was snatched back from the jaws of oblivion. And if you listen closely, you can hear the reservoirs of the Seattle International Film Festival filling up in preparation for the Immortan Joe–esque deluge of cinema that bathes our city at the end of every spring.
However, it's interesting to note how the model of SIFF—full access for a limited time to a massive and well-curated banquet of options—has come to exemplify all areas of entertainment consumption (grand-scale music festivals, Spotify, binge TV watching, etc.). It's also worth considering the ways that Seattle's self-identification as a moviegoer's paradise has changed as the triple threat of on-demand culture, the brutal economy of movie theater operation, and the city's infuriating traffic reality has made the prospect of leaving home to go to the movies more difficult and less necessary than ever.
The main thing that has changed, though, is the nature of time itself. I don't know why it's so hard anymore to find two consecutive hours to sit in a movie theater and so easy to spend 12 hours watching a season of some TV show, but it is.
I don't know what effect the advent of light rail will have on all these developments, but I do know that it will make getting to the U-District, which remains the galactic central point of Seattle's movie theater cosmos, a hell of a lot easier for residents of Capitol Hill, downtown, and points south, and to that I say hell yes.
My Seattle-as-movie consciousness originates from the U-District, though I haven't lived there for 20 years. That's because when I moved here, the Neptune had a repertory calendar that offered a different double feature of movie essentials practically every day. That's all over now, alas, but the Grand Illusion, the Varsity, the Seven Gables, and even the increasingly decrepit looking (but still structurally sound?) Guild 45th remain, along with the cost-prohibitive but—okay I'll go ahead and say it—weirdly NICE Sundance Cinemas in the space that used to be my beloved Metro.
And then there is the cathedral of Scarecrow, nobly refusing to be vanquished by the vastly inferior experience of streaming video subscriptions and the whole thing about time.
I know Husky Stadium is not exactly a stone's throw from any of these beauties, and I know that the bummers of modern life don't vanish just because you don't have to drive through Montlake or on I-5 ever again (YESSSSSS!). And yet, it's also true that for the past decade and a bit, the U-District has felt like a remote bastion you need to be talked into enduring the hassle of going to. And now all those movies are going to be in easy reach.
At the very least, it means you'll never have to even think about the Meridian 16 again.