I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the Seattle Cinerama, a haven for sci-fi nerds, the home of the iconic 70-millimeter film festival, and Paul Allen's vast collection of movie memorabilia, is dead "for the foreseeable future."
Cinerama, which was owned by Allen's Vulcan, closed suddenly in early February for "renovations," according to Vulcan. Staff was laid off on the spot without advance notice so that Vulcan could do renovations such as "overhaul the kitchen, replacing the carpet, and addressing normal wear and tear throughout the building." People were puzzled. Cinerama's last major renovation was in 2014.
Now, with COVID-19 shuttering public gathering spaces, Cinerama, which boasts a theater that can seat around 600 people, has announced that it will not be re-opening later this year. It's unclear whether it will ever re-open. The Seattle Times has reported that Vulcan has closed its entire Arts + Entertainment division. A Vulcan spokesperson confirmed this to me in a statement:
"Like so many businesses worldwide, the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis require Vulcan to assess its size and structure to maximize effectiveness and impact, and continue to evolve as an organization following the death of our co-founder. We have made the extremely hard decision to close two divisions over the next several months as we move to a future that will be changed in untold ways by the pandemic. This means we are winding down both Vulcan Arts + Entertainment and Vulcan Productions by the end of the year."
That means the future of Cinerama as well as the Seattle Art Fair, the Living Computers Museum, and the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum. These are basically all of Allen's pet projects. They only outlived him by a few years, I guess.
The iconic single-screen theater has been woven into the fabric of Seattle since the 1960s. It was revitalized by Allen when he purchased it back in 1998. Its 2014 renovation added state of the art sound systems and lofty seats. I also particularly love that I can hear movie sound in the bathroom during movie pee breaks and the twinkling stars that dot the theater's ceiling. For now, I'll be hoping there's a path forward for Cinerama, the smell of chocolate popcorn that's embedded in its walls, and its annual 2001: A Space Odyssey showings.