Movie House of Worship: Seattle Cinerama

By  · Published on February 17th, 2013

photo by Joe Szilagyi, 2008

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, film critic Jason Whyte highlights one of his favorite theaters. His comments are those quoted. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.

Seattle Cinerama

Location: 2100 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA

Opened: January 24, 1963, as the Martin Cinerama. Re-opened in 1999 following a decades-long decline and near-demolition.

No. of screens: 1 (technically 2 screens but they alternate for one auditorium)

Current first-run titles: A Good Day to Die Hard

Costume display case in the Cinerama lobby.

Repertory programming: On February 28, the Cinerama will present a 35mm print of the 1966 Batman: The Movie with a special exhibit of Adam West’s costume. In the past, the theater has been home to Cinerama festivals, showing such classics of the format as This is Cinerama and How the West Was Won, and 70mm film series, presenting such titles as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Titanic and Lawrence of Arabia.

Special Events: One of the homes to the Seattle International Film Festival (it famously opted out of the fest in 2005, though, for a booking of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith). Next month, the theater will hold a premiere Girl Rising, the new documentary from Oscar nominee Richard Robbins (Operation Homecoming).

Why I worship here: “Where to begin? One of the biggest movie screens I have come across, a world class sound system and they can play virtually any format that is out there right now. The Cinerama can play new digital (DCP, Blu-ray, HD projection) movies as well as 70mm, 35mm and the 3-strip Cinerama projection that kicked off the widescreen craze in the early 1950s. This is one of the only three theaters in the world that can play the original Cinerama process (the other two are the Cinerama Dome in L.A. and a small museum theater in Bradford, England), which projects three images onto a deeply curved wide screen. They show digital restorations, as well, making it a great all-purpose cinema. The theater also has nearly 1,000 very comfortable seats and a balcony!”

Recent screening of note: “A friend and I visited the Cinerama last April for a special Science Fiction Film Fest. There we were treated not only to a new 35mm print of The Terminator, but also original 70mm prints of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Tron, Ghostbusters and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (you’ll notice I didn’t put a “II” in the title, as this was an original print and no “II” was present!).”

Devotion to the concessions: “The theater has the usual concession items in addition to locally sourced candies and ice cream. But what really puts the theater on the map is the chocolate popcorn. Made all fresh and in-house, this is a great treat to add to the Cinerama experience. However, unless you’re sharing, do opt for a small bag as a sugar high may result.”

Last word: “A true gift for Seattle moviegoers, the Seattle Cinerama was built at the height of Cinerama’s fame. Thanks to billionare Paul Allen, the theater was saved from demolition in the ’90s and is still preserved to this day as a throwback to how moviegoing used to be. It’s a mighty popular place in the city to see a movie, and my favorite cinema in the world.”

Jason Whyte is a film critic for based in Victoria, BC.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.