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Is It The End For The Seattle Cinerama Theater??

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  • Is It The End For The Seattle Cinerama Theater??

    Copied from a Reddit article then I lost the link.

    Is It The End Of The Seattle Cinerama Theater?
    Cinerama layoffs - the untold story
    So last week everyone at Cinerama was suddenly laid off with the theater announcing ‘renovations’. Here’s the inside story that wouldn’t otherwise be told. Hold on to your butts because it’s a long one.
    A brief history. Cinerama was purchased by Paul Allen in 1999. Vulcan didn’t want to deal with the day-to-day operation of the theater, so they contracted it out. Until 2010 this contract was held by AMC theaters. AMC had supposedly been doing a poor job of running the place and Vulcan decided to look for another operator. This is where the Cinerama that you know and love was born.
    The contract went to a small-time group based out of Portland. Like literally just one dude. He knew the industry, had great contacts, and wanted to do cool shit. So the theater closes briefly in 2010 for a renovation while AMC is moving out. During this time digital projectors are installed at Cinerama for the first time and a second 70mm projector is installed to allow for reel-to-reel projection (the good shit). Chocolate popcorn is introduced. At this point you start seeing 70mm festivals, the actual Cinerama screen getting used occasionally to show 3-strip Cinerama films, lots of cool one-off events like a Game of Thrones premiere, the world premiere of MAGI (for the techies, this was the first ever 120FPS 4K 3D projection - really cool shit).
    Eventually in 2014 Cinerama closes from Aug-Nov while the theater is renovated again. This is the big one. The auditorium is re-raked for sight lines, seat count is reduced and new seats with improved leg room are installed, screen is replaced, kitchen is renovated to allow for beer and wine service, the kickass mural goes up, Dolby Atmos is installed, and the world’s first laser projection system is installed. It's something like a $5M investment. If you want to pour one out for Paul, now is the time. At this point the Seattle Cinerama is literally one of the best cinemas on the planet.…/11-coolest-movie-theaters-arou…
    Now, let’s rewind for a second and consider financials. The first couple years post-AMC were a little shaky. Festivals were really popular but they generally weren’t great movie years. The place grossed less than $1million in 2011, its first full year under new management. 2012 had films like The Dark Knight Rises and they got better at programming for the Seattle market, so this year is better - turns a small profit. 2013 is about the same with slight improvements. 2014 was an incomplete year because of the renovation but was on pace to be the best yet. Cinerama has been doing steadily better year over year. Well, now the ‘epic’ renovation goes through and the numbers skyrocket. 2015 Cinerama grosses over $3M and nets $500K. So in 4 years the place has gone from grossing just $700K and losing money to netting $500K. Huge. 2016 is even better. Now Cinerama is netting close to $1M with a box office gross nearing $5M. Festivals are doing amazingly well and first-run content is on point. For example, Blade Runner 2049 tanked nationally but totally crushed at Cinerama. It ran sold out on the weekends for several weeks straight. Get this, Cinerama was the #1 theater in the country with BR2049. This means Cinerama’s one screen out performed every other theater in the country including multiplexes. Unheard of. At this point Cinerama is absolutely throttling and is paying for the recent renovation at an astonishing rate. All while keeping ticket and concession prices reasonable. 2017 is Cinerama’s best year yet, however this is when Cinerama’s fate takes a most unfortunate turn. Have I mentioned employee satisfaction yet? Working for such a small company had its drawbacks. No health insurance, for example. But despite this, pretty much everyone loves the job. We have a hugely dedicated team who believe in the project. And we are all getting the hours we need because the theater is so busy all the time.
    The creation of Vulcan Art + Entertainment (VAE):
    The idea was decent, but the staffing and execution could not have been worse. The head of the Paul Allen owned Portland Trail Blazers had an idea to pull all of Vulcan’s disparate entities under the same umbrella thus the creation of this "art and entertainment" organization. MoPOP, Living Computers Museum, The Flying Heritage Museum, and Cinerama. What do these things have in common? Who the hell knows, but they’re all of Paul’s random ‘entertainment’ interests, so why not group them together? So Mr. Trail Blazers is now the head of a fledgling VAE but he’s busy with the basketball stuff and hires a Vice President to do the dirty work. This person - the VP. Ugh. We could write an essay on how trash this person is that would rival the brother’s K in page count. Check out this person's resume - 'Vice President of Vulcan Art + Entertainment' - it includes marketing or some shit for an NHL hockey team, some corporate sales shit for the Iron Man competition, and sales for AEG. This person didn’t know what Cinerama actually was, didn’t know the difference between analog and digital film, and had zero knowledge of popular culture. How is this person qualified to oversee one of the best theaters on the planet or really any of this? Well, this person knows the Trail Blazers dude, that’s how.
    So this person comes into the fray in late 2017 and there’s an immediate clash with Cinerama leadership. They want to make changes to lower overhead and improve sponsorship dollars. At this point Cinerama was completely free of any ‘corporate’ influence because it simply didn’t need the ad revenue (reminder it’s netting $1M annually) and because the management had enough taste to keep things simple. At this point it’s still the Cinerama that you know and love, but only because management are fighting this shit tooth and nail. It all comes to a head in early-2018 and the outfit from Portland gets canned. Things are bleak. We're all afraid that we're going to lose our jobs and the theater is going to go to shit. Well, luckily Vulcan realized that they were absolutely stranded if they didn’t retain everyone else and at this point the General Manager, Assistant General Manager, and most of the staff become Art + Entertainment employees. Despite loathing the new senior management, most continued at Cinerama out of necessity, others out of love for the building. This is spring of 2018. The first few months under VAE are very bumpy. This movie theater thing is brand new to them, but they’re overconfident fresh off the victory of a “successful transition” (Napoleon Dynamite fist pump). They immediately cut staff hours, reduced the number of daily showtimes, and began heavily dictating the first-run film choices. This is also when Cinerama stopped refunding your tickets altogether. This is also when ads started hitting the screen and all the lobby televisions advertising combo meals got installed. This is also when prices went up. This is also when several of Cinerama’s managers resigned and the real loss of institutional knowledge began.

    Continued in Part 2 Below

  • #2
    Part 2

    During slow periods in programming they knew they desperately needed help because there was no obvious Disney product to book and so they allowed staff to curate the occasional “film series” (see ‘Sound and Vision’, holiday stuff etc). These small revival festivals helped keep that Cinerama identity you came to know, but it was just a facade. Below the surface, staff at every level were getting shit on. Management tried their best to fight for us and the business, but in early-2019 our GM and AGM were let go on the same day. They stuck up for what was right and suffered the same fate as their previous boss who was canned one year earlier. Shit was bleak, but we kept fighting the good fight whenever we could. Occasionally we’d get a small win, but our dignity was constantly being eroded. We kept it together by being there for each other. It was a tight group who had been through a lot together and were still able to be transfixed by that magical screen from time to time.

    Don’t worry, we’re nearing the end.

    Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker:

    VAE are truly exposed here. This is the first Star Wars Episode solely under VAE management. Lo and behold we’re understaffed for the entire run, are constantly running out of supplies because someone (looking at you Mr. Director of Operations of VAE) took Biz 101 and wanted to utilize ‘JIT’. Yeah, this doesn’t work when you’re selling out literally every seat of every show for weeks over the holidays. Hi Mr. Director of Operations, yeah you’re an ass. Oh and they also didn’t increase our trash pickups as a cost-cutting measure and we had to store a huge amount of garbage behind the screen. Did you smell anything funny during The Rise of Skywalker? It wasn’t your neighbor in G12...

    SO after dealing with the hell that was Star Wars over the holidays, after working ourselves to the bone to cover for being under staffed for weeks, after dealing with endless upset customers because we didn’t have any chocolate popcorn that day. After ALL that (and a lot more douchebaggery from VAE) we’re called into an all-hands meeting on a Tuesday morning and unceremoniously laid off. Canned just like our old bosses and their boss before them. Canned with zero warning. Canned by a coward who read verbatim from a PR-vetted document and wouldn’t take questions (Hi again Mr. Director of Operations). Canned because we gave a shit.

    Oh, and did we mention that our box office grosses have been in sharp decline since they took over in 2018?

    So now you know. Now you know that Cinerama was an amazing place because of the people running it. Now you know that those people got destroyed by certain individuals at Vulcan. Now you know not to support the theater, because it’s not Cinerama any more...


    Big ups to all the local independent theaters in Seattle, especially SIFF, who when they heard about the Cinerama closure, reached out to offer staff hours at their venues.

    There’s still heart in this city if you know where to look, just don’t look near 505 5th Ave S.


    • #3
      I hope to someday visit this cinematic treasure the next time im in the area; I'm rarely out that far west.


      • #4
        Here's the link, Mark:

        I've been following this story and it breaks my fucking heart. Cinerama was the perfect theater. Top-notch presentation of both film and digital projection, an immersive 60-foot screen, and a fantastic mix of current releases and classics. And it was making money.



        • #5
          Yeah, that's what happens when you start using Micro$oft products.......................

          Let's also add a far-right AM politicrap talk station in the Portland area to his list of random entertainment holdings.


          • #6
            This story brings a tear to my eye. Fn pisses me off to no end.


            • #7
              Up until a couple of days ago you could still see into the lobby from the street. Went by there today and all the windows are covered inside with paper; large signs in some windows saying "We Are Renovating". By the time i got done reading the Reddit article i realized it was probably just a disgruntled former employee ranting. However, this closure has obviously not been handled well.


              • #8
                Really hope the harsh response they’ve received doesn’t fall on deaf/ignorant ears. I love going to the Cinerama specifically for film and Atmos presentations, but their regular programming leaves much to be desired (ie. Swapping out blockbusters every 3-4 weeks and occasionally throwing a weeklong themed fest). This reddit post opened my eyes to the corporate politics at play stifling the excellent managers, and I’m wary that it’ll just carry on when they reopen.


                • #9
                  programming leaves much to be desired
                  Just out of curiosity, what would you prefer they show?

                  In my view, their booking could not have been better. I want to see the latest blockbusters on the biggest screen and the best sound, not more intimate dramas or comedies.

                  But then again, they would sometimes run a "rewind" series of titles they didn't initially run, including the more intimate dramas and comedies.

                  And their week-long themed fests were amazing. In 2019 alone, they ran the following series:
                  • Destruction, Disaster & Dystopia (RoboCop, Die Hard, Dredd 3D, Children of Men, The Terminator, Battlefield Earth, Titanic, Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, Jurassic Park)
                  • Winter Rewind (A Star is Born, Into the Spider-Verse, The Favourite, Bumblebee, If Beal Street Could Talk)
                  • Best Pic Noms (Bohemian Rhapsody, BlacKkKlansman, A Star is Born, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, Vice, Black Panther)
                  • 1999 Rewind (Run Lola Run, Fight Club, The Iron Giant, Election, Blair Wtich, Galaxy Quest, Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, Office Space, American Movie, Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels, Austin Powers, eXistenZ, The Matrix, Three Kings, Being John Malkovich)
                  • Anime (Spirited Away, Akira, The Red Turtle, Princess Mononoke, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, Paprika, Kiki's Delivery Service, Wolf Children, Tokyo Godfathers, Castle in the Sky, Redine, Your Name, Summer Wars, The Wind Rises, Mind Game)
                  • Faster than Light (First Man, 2001, Prometheus, Alien, Aliens, Star Trek II, Star Trek First Contact, Interstellar, Apollo 11, CE3K)
                  • Summer Trip (Wet Hot American Summer, The Big Lebowski, Willy Wonka, Wizard of Oz, Wild at Heart, JAWS, Us, Mandy, Spinal Tap, Do the Right Thing, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dazed and Confused, Neverending Story, Midsommar)
                  • Sound and Vision (Blade Runner, Pulp Fiction, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pan's Labyrinth, Labyrinth, Back to the Future, Inception, Amazing Grace, The 5th Element, Mad Max Fury Road (B&C), Apocalypse Now, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, The Royal Tenenbaums, Boogie Nights, Goldfinger, Eraserhead, A Hard Day's Night, Saturday Night Fever, Singin' in the Rain, Raging Bull, Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine, Cabaret, Amelie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
                  • Stephen King (Carrie, Creepshow, The Dead Zone, Dolores Claiborne, Misery, Stand By Me, The Green Mile, Needful Things, Maximum fucking Overdrive, Pet Semetary, The Running Man, Christine, It Chapter One)
                  • 70MM (Last Crusade, 2001, Lawrence of Arabia, E.T., Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Fantastic Beasts, Roma, West Side Story, Back to the Future II, Star Trek IV, The Dark Crystal)
                  • Horrorama (Ghostbusters, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thing, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, The Birds, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, The Exorcist, The Evil Dead, Midsommar DC, Bram Stoker's Dracula)
                  • 70MM part 2 (Vertigo, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Untouchables, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Interstellar, Malcolm X, Lawrence of Arabia, Dunkirk, Interstellar)
                  • A Few Good Films (Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, Glory, Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, The Hurt Locker, Saving Private Ryan)
                  • Holiday (Polar Express, Gremlins, Elf, White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, Scrooged, Bad Santa, Christmas Vacation)
                  Is there a theater anywhere else on the planet showing such a fantastic range of titles and formats on a giant immersive screen with state of the art sound?
                  Last edited by Geoff Jones; 03-02-2020, 09:21 AM.


                  • #10
                    I mean the regular programming of a blockbuster and only that blockbuster like Lion King or Star Wars for 3-4 weeks at a time.

                    I enjoy the fests, but they get announced a week or two, sometimes days, before they happen, so I don't consider them regular. For as much hey gets made about the Cinerama's projection capabilities, they only show 70mm prints 2 weeks out of the year, rarely any 35mm, and even fewer 3D films (How long has it been since they even showed a Cinerama film in the Cinerama?). I end up driving to the Hollywood Theatre in Portland far more often for more varied programming on a consistent basis than I drive the 10min into downtown Seattle from my apartment, simply because they afford me the time in advance to plan for the event.

                    Those fests are the only semblance of independent programming Cinerama has, so I don't mean to be overly critical about them. But, there are so many other opportunities available, like Saturday morning family programming, weekend midnight shows of cult films. These are regular programming events that can be counted on and build a regular stable audience that isn't constantly guessing when the next break in required Hollywood programming might be. What I would like from the theater is a consistent programming voice rather than clear push-and-pull of the corporate and the independent.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Scotty Wright View Post
                      I mean the regular programming of a blockbuster and only that blockbuster like Lion King or Star Wars for 3-4 weeks at a time.
                      That's how contracts with the big studios work. If you're a single screen theater, they require their film title to play "clean" on that screen, usually for 3 to 4 weeks at a time, meaning no other first-run films or special screenings are allowed. If the other theaters you mention are skirting these conditions, and a film distributor notices, their master license agreement with that theater will be null and void. You can play by their rules, or not at all.
                      Last edited by Mark Strube; 03-10-2020, 09:07 PM.


                      • #12
                        psssshhaw, if you want to be a rep theater, be a rep theater! do first run only if you can do it on your terms. it's not easy playing the long game but it sounds like it was working out for a while, and with paul allen money you can afford to ride things out.

                        i went to the cinerama circa 2012 (i remember occupy protests going on at the time) to see this is cinerama and how the west was won. it seemed like the the louvered screen wasn't set up entirely properly, but it was still entirely worth it. since i was flying in and had booked a hostel, i did what i rarely do and booked advance tickets... for a reasonable price and no surcharge! i tried the chocolate popcorn and wasn't into it, but it was priced so far below the theater i worked at that i couldn't complain. overall a very positive experience.

                        what a shame they're buggering it all up now.


                        • #13
                          Here we are three weeks later and don't they look like geniuses now for their timing. For all you conspiracy theorists: HOW did they know?


                          • #14

                            Future of Seattle’s Cinerama and Living Computers museum in doubt as Paul Allen’s Vulcan shutters arts and production divisions

                            by Kurt Schlosser on May 27, 2020 at 2:48 pm

                            Cinerama in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)Seattle-area cultural institutions founded by the late Paul Allen, including the Cinerama movie theater and Living Computers Museum + Labs, face the possibility of permanent closure after Vulcan Inc. announced Thursday that it will wind down Vulcan Arts + Entertainment and Vulcan Productions by the end of the year.
                            In a statement from Vulcan, the organization cited the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the need to continue to assess its evolution as an organization following the 2018 death of Allen, the Microsoft co-founder.
                            While the ongoing health crisis has caused numerous businesses to close during state-mandated lockdowns, Vulcan’s move called into question whether some of its organizations would ever return.
                            The move affects the historic Cinerama, which was undergoing renovations that had been halted by the pandemic; Living Computers: Museum + Labs, a historical showcase of computing technology as well as interactive exhibits; Seattle Art Fair, a modern and contemporary art showcase in Seattle; the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Wash.; and more.

                            The full statement from Vulcan Inc.:
                            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.
                            The pandemic has had devastating effects on many businesses and nonprofits alike, especially those that rely on public gatherings and special events as part of achieving their mission.
                            For this reason, Living Computers: Museum + Labs will remain closed for now and spend the coming months reassessing if, how, and when to reopen. Cinerama’s renovation was already paused given the pandemic, and will also stay closed for the foreseeable future. The Seattle Art Fair, which was already cancelled for 2020, will take some time to see how the situation and art world calendar evolve before deciding any further plans. And similarly, the board of the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum in Everett has decided it will also remain closed for now to evaluate if, how, and when to reopen. We have also made the extremely difficult decision to permanently close h Club LA and are beginning the proposal process toward closing the original h Club in London.
                            Vulcan Productions will continue to work with their trusted partners and co-producers to wind down and transition projects this year, doing their best to set these projects up for success as we make a gradual exit.
                            We are proud of the hundreds of thousands of people that have been educated, entertained, and inspired by these unique institutions and film projects, and their global impact cannot be underestimated. Vulcan remains committed to its mission of making and leaving the world a better place, and we are grateful to each and every team member for the dedication and commitment they have exhibited on a daily basis. It is through their expertise and passion for our mission that we have accomplished so much in these projects throughout the years.

                            Allen’s death left a gaping hole in Seattle’s philanthropic arts scene, as he was a longtime champion of music, art, film and science fiction, and spent large sums of his wealth in pursuit of those passions.
                            The future of Vulcan and the vast array of holdings near and dear to Allen, including the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, have faced an uncertain couple of years under the leadership of Allen’s sister, Jody Allen.
                            The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, another Allen creation, was not listed by Vulcan among the organizations facing uncertainty, and Vulcan said the music and sci-fi museum is an independent 501(c)3 organization that is not impacted by the decisions.
                            Cinerama, the high-tech movie theater that Allen purchased in 1998, underwent a major start-of-the-art technology upgrade in 2014 and was closed for more changes in February. With what was billed as a temporary closure at the time, before COVID-19, Vulcan laid off a number of employees.
                            The Upstream Music Fest and Summit, created by Allen as a three-day showcase of diverse musical talent, lasted two years before being shut down before the event could be staged in 2019.
                            Vulcan added on Thursday that operational challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic have forced the long-term moorage of the Research Vessel Petrel, and that it will not be deployed for the foreseeable future. Acquired in 2016, the ship-hunting Petrel has been credited with finding numerous shipwrecks.


                            • #15
                              Thanks Sean for the current Seattle Cinerama news. If Vulcan sells off the Cinerama Theatre in Seattle the hot property under It is worth more then the cinema building. We hope the owners of Pacific Theatres in Los Angeles will look into buying another Cinerama Theatre to keep the system alive. They can join forces with local Seattle film groups. Let's hope It can re open again some day!