I Quit My Job at the Harvard Exit Three Weeks Ago After Working There for Seven Years. I Just Learned It’s Closing. I Will Miss It.

A Sad, Sweet Eulogy For ‘a Real Theatah’


This is so sad! Another building that will hearken to the good days when Seattle had unique, locally owned and operated businesses instead of apartments...
Soon enough they will bulldoze that building and add another condo on the Hill. So sad.
@3, thanks for doing the research work the staffers should be doing, and now @1 and 2 can put that in their negative Nelly pipes.

Really should send a picture of the Shurinal to Jason Alexander.
Excellent piece.

BTW. We'll miss you, Sarah!

—Joe Bar Regular
The Harvard Exit changed movie going in Seattle for a number of years. In the early 1970s it didn't matter what film was there: you could rely upon the theater. They showed unusual unknown films. Mr. Osteen, the owner, would speak to the audience about the film to be shown and about the next film. Sometimes there were no previews so he would show the first reel of the next film. Does anyone remember The Apple War? Randy Finley, who started Landmark, picked up on Osteen's idea and often showed other quirky excellent films until he realized the money was with Hollywood (Finley also spoke to the audience in the beginning). A burger at The DeLuxe and a film at The Harvard was a perfect evening.
I am from Seattle, we lived Capitol Hill when I was a little kid. We moved away when I was three, then moved back a year later. We arrived from North Dakota, my mom and me ahead of everyone else, and we lived in an apartment on 10th Ave E from 1970 and for several years on. My step-dad was a student at Cornish and had friends in the film co-op that used to meet upstairs. Harvard Exit was the first theater I went to, and is where I learned to love film and the film going experience. The building is a treasure, and as a theater, it is irreplaceable. You can not design the experience it creates, it is something that has to be formed out of time. To paraphrase Jane Jacobs, new ideas need old spaces to thrive.
The Apple War is a very funny movie Algernon. I hadn't thought of it in years.
Of course they have it at Scarecrow. I'll have to rent it someday.
Seattle is a laugh. The United Fascist Corporate Developer States of America are a joke. NO self-respecting culture allows it's landmarks to be destroyed en masse at the hands of profiteers to the point where nothing is left at all. There are no cultural institutions left in America. Malls and chain stores and casinos and football are NOT culture. We have a symphony that can't bypass vacation long enough to play anything but Handel's Messiah every year. Wow, how original. I bet the Boeing engineer drones making drones approve. Go to Vienna and see how many options you have in the month of December. This city has some outdoor amenities, and a lot of bars, but otherwise, it's overpriced beyond belief for what it offers. Oh, sorry, I forgot, the Seattle Arts Commission is designating Art Districts across the city, this after allowing developers to evict every single uncommissioned artist living space across Belltown and Pio Square over the last ten years. But there's Georgetown, oh wait, Fran's chocolates is down there boring everyone to death, with NOT ONE PIECE of ART on its walls. This city is a total joke. I mean, tell people they can get jobs here, but don't tell them how artistic this city is, because it isn't.
my gf and I went to the guild in wallingford at 9pm on a friday evening a few weeks ago to see bill murray's new film. we arrived right at the start of the movie, and were the only ones in the entire theater for the first 10 minutes. eventually, 4 other people showed up.

4 nights later, we went to see a one night only showing of "rem by mtv" at the harvard exit. it was a tuesday night, we got there 5 minutes late, and the theater was probably 75% full, paying $15 a tix to see a film about a band that broke up like 3 years ago. (btw, it was a great film).

i will miss the harvard exit. i'm all for urban density/progress/etc, but when all we decide to build are $2000/ month 450 sq ft studios, with ground level chipotles and starbucks and chase banks, well, capitol hill can go fuck itself.

great piece of writing, sarah.
Randy Finley started Seven Gables (a Seattle company), which merged with Landmark (a California company) after Randy had moved on to other endeavors. A lot of really passionate people gave us the chance to love the movies as much as they did. Thanks to everyone in Seattle who built and nurtured those theatres, who inspired excellence and showmanship by the employees, to the Local 154 operators who worked every night to make it look good, and to the customers who came and appreciated both the films and the theatres.
We held the first Women in Cinema Film festival there back in 1996 and I will never forget the wonderful Q&A after the film with the Norwegian filmmaker of Death is a Caress, Edith Calmar who said she ended her career when films went to color as she only felt good working in B&W…I intro'd many a SIFF film and director and did many a Q&A there and it was truly my neighborhood cinema. I just showed my first film there, Obama Mama, duri g the last SIFF and was so proud to be there on the other side for once…answering audiences questions, speaking to people after the film…what a sad thing Seattle.
God I'll miss the Harvard exit!

Great article Sarah.

(Former employee of 9 years)

Another Seattle icon bites the dust.

What's next? (Besides the Varsity Theater)?

Sad. Sad. Sad.
Progress schmogress.
Shame on Landmark Theaters who have neglected these gems. Seven Gables built a beloved chain of theaters showing films that would never be seen in the multiplexes. All maintenance and improvements for the theaters seemed to cease when they were taken over by Landmark. I finally stopped going to movies at Landmark Theaters after visiting the women's restroom at the Guild 45th. I realized I never wanted to be in one of these theaters if a fire broke out. I had recently become disabled on the last time I visited the Harvard Exit. There is no elevator so I made the slow trek to the third floor. As I entered the theater, the first thing I saw was the universal wheelchair sign at the end of a row of seats. I think that speaks volumes. RIP Seven Gables and good riddance to Landmark.
I realize that I neglected to mention that Harvard Exit has always been a Landmark Theater. The "partnership" between Seven Gables and Landmark removed any incentive to compete, thus the downhill slide of all the independent theaters.
I am soon curious about the hidden room! You should try to take a picture through the peephole before the place closes.
i always thought old people lamenting "good old days" were just, well, grouchy old people... but now i am starting to wonder.
I appreciate Sarah Galvin's writing this article and The Stranger's publishing it.
Madge, I worked at the Harvard Exit before it was a Landmark Theatre and was there during its transition to Landmark ownership. Your comment that it has "always been a Landmark Theater" is completely incorrect. Also, before Landmark we (the staff) all made speeches introducing the movies and the lobby was open to anyone for cheese and crackers and tea. I don't remember Randy Finlay but that could be true. I do remember that Landmark Theatres came out of Los Angeles so the comment from someone that Randy Finlay started Landmark seems wrong to me. Sarah, I was there at one of the alleged incidents documented as a ghost story for this theater and can validate that no ghosts were involved. Like many people who worked there, I have many colorful stories about that theatre. I hope they can't tear it down. Isn't it a historic landmark?
Sorry to see that the Stranger couldn't find someone with more history living in Seattle to write this piece. The Harvard Exit deserves respect via a journalist who knows this city and and theater on a more intimate basis. Seven years sweeping floors? Big deal. How about 20+ years attending 100's of screenings? How about someone who actually encountered one of the ghosts? The alleged suicide in the upstairs powder room is a complete fabrication of the author. There is indeed a ghost, and the people who host the Capitol Hill Ghost Tour know all the details from personal eye-witness accounts. My own story is one of them. Too bad the Stranger editorial staff couldn't find someone to write this piece with more of a vested interest in the Women's Century Club and the Harvard Exit Theater.
I went to the Harvard Exit all the time in the early 1970s up to the current year? Seattle has completely lost its soul to the developers in the last twenty years. It's so very disturbing. I hate Seattle now. That Harvard Exit is closing is just another example of the greed that dominates the city. Makes me ill.
WOW. WOW again.

I managed the Harvard Exit for about two years. 1981-82, beginning about 3-4 months after Jim and Art tuned it over to Landmark.

Pretty much spent 12 hours a day there. I opened 'Top of the Exit'. Opened the building every Sunday morning for the ladies of the Women's Century Club for their meetings. Got married in the parlor in front of the fireplace one Sunday morning in January 1984 while Clem Zip played 'Sunny Side of the Street' on the grand piano. Also put that old projector in there after Linda Rajote had purchased it. I and a friend personally restored the scroll work above the entry and back doors and built and installed the movie poster cases in the lobby and up the stairway. I even did the logo thing that sits lighted above the outside poster case on the front of the building. (We built that, too.)

As you can tell I have a lot of history with that place and I'm sad to hear it's going by the way. It was routinely voted best movie theater in Seattle for many years. It's a big loss for the entire city.

Landmark should be ashamed, but they are probably getting a pile of money and feel no remorse. It's the way of things these day in Seattle.
The loss of the Harvard Exit is tragic, but so is the loss of journalistic standards. This three sentence headline reads like a narcissistic Facebook post.
@22 Waahhh. Fucking write it then.
#14: What's next? I'm gonna say wait a month or so and see what happens to the Sorrento.
O, this is so sad.

Where are all the ghosts going to go?