A tribute to the Seattle Cinerama, one of cinema's last great theaters

"The re-opening of Seattle’s Cinerama Theatre represents the preservation of a uniquely American art form that dramatically reshaped the film industry and the public’s expectations of the movie-going experience."

I suppose that, at this point, you all are fairly certain that all I do is whine and complain about things that bug me. Every one of my entries thus far has been steeped in bitter cynicism, the kind that succeeds in a few chuckles, but ultimately in depression, the kind brought about by severe negativity. I don’t take pride in being so angry and harsh all the time, believe me. But it’s easier to be pessimistic and write about things that piss me off, and it’s certainly much more fun to take pot-shots at things I see wrong with society (namely, Hummers and KFC Famous Bowls) rather than delight in the things I see that are right.

But a balance must be achieved. I realize that I can’t simply complain about things day after day, mindlessly berating the easily mocked aspects of society. I’m well aware that I’m preaching to the choir. And yeah, you might get a few laughs out of my jumbled ramblings of hatred. But eventually it gets old, doesn’t it?

So today I’m going to write about something fun and enjoyable – something I actually like about the world. Now, stifle your gasps: I’m not doing away with my cynicism. Oh no, it’s far from gone. You’ll still be seeing a fair amount of it, directed every which way, and I’ll most likely still make fun of fat people (sorry, it’s just what I do). But I’ll try to even it out a bit with the occasional light-hearted entry, something for the whole family to enjoy.

I’ve visited a large number of theaters in my 19 years. There were the AMC three-screens of my youth – where I saw the restored versions of the “Star Wars” films – which would soon die out as the greedy corporate behemoth known as Regal Cinemas would monopolize the theater industry, sucking dry the resources of lesser, friendlier, cheaper cinemas. And then there’s art-house theaters, such as the Grand Cinema in Tacoma; a small, non-profit theater as warm, friendly and inviting as theaters come now-a-days, manned by a rag-tag bunch of devoted movie lovers. I’ve even ventured into theaters that resemble glass skyscrapers, with several stories-worth of screens and concession stands.

However, I tend to frequent the multiplexes for a majority of my films. They’re many, they’re convenient and they play a wide variety of movies. Essentially, though, they’re large, lifeless hulks of concrete and steel, dishing out whatever schlock Hollywood forcibly shoves down the throats of the general public at ridiculous prices. These multiplexes are cold and distant, more like traveling in an airplane than actually enjoying a film.

But then there’s my favorite place in the whole world: The Cinerama in Seattle. It’s a dying breed, one of the few single-screen theaters left in Washington. The important characteristic that has kept this theater alive in the wake of the Regal domination (and it did flounder a bit) is the mammoth size of its screen. 90 feet long, towering above the audience at a colossal 30 feet in height, the screen is one of the largest non-IMAX screens on the West Coast. Watching a film here is an absolute treat.

The lobby is decorated with arm chairs and tables. Arm chairs. And tables. In a theater lobby. It’s simply astounding. It’s a clean and beautifully maintained lobby, exuding a genuine warmth that is all too absent in modern cinemas. The popcorn is warm and fresh, completely blowing away that stale Styrofoam crap they serve at most multiplexes.

And then you climb the stairs into the Cinerama auditorium-style theater.

The plush, crimson seats are arranged perfectly, not a bad spot in the house. The front row is set back a good forty feet from the screen, saving those in the front the pain of craning their necks to watch the movie. A balcony (when was the last time you went to a movie theater with a balcony?) rises majestically over the rest of the audience. The ceiling is set with faintly glowing pinpricks of light, made to look like a clear night sky. It’s as comfortable, as beautiful a theater that exists in this world. And it’s the best place within 300 miles of Seattle to watch a film.

Many of my fondest theater experiences happened in this wonderful place. I waited in the rain for six hours with my Dad to see “The Return of the King” on opening day, surrounded by lumpy men dressed as Hobbits, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was invited to a press screening of “Revenge of the Sith” a full ten days before its release and sat in this beautiful theater to watch the exciting conclusion to the Star Wars saga, surrounded by professional film critics and movie lovers just like me.

The Cinerama reminds me, every time I go, of the magic movies can bring. And I know, that sounds like recycled Disney crap, but it’s true. Theaters like the Cinerama hark back to the days when movies were more than cheap entertainment, more than a good way to waste a couple of hours.

I’ve never had a large man in a trucker’s hat, hugging a large popcorn and pool-sized soda to his man-breasts, push past me at the Cinerama in order to get a good seat for “Larry the Cable Guy: Healthy Inspector.” At the Cinerama, the audience is a tight-knit group enjoying the same film. You laugh together, you cry together, and afterwards, it’s not uncommon to mingle in the lobby with strangers and discuss the film together (which, let’s be honest, is almost non-existent in modern multiplexes).

And that’s why the Cinerama is my favorite place in the world. If you ever get the opportunity to see a film at this wonderful theater, you should take it.

In other news, white Rocket shirts are now available in the Rocket Shop. They’re about five dollars cheaper, but just as nice. Go check it out if you have some time.


  1. I'm a little sad after reading your post that my first Cinerama experience was "The Brothers Grimm."
    You've always said I should be, but I was content with my experience (as you mentioned, the seating is amazing). So I figured it was still 10x better than any experience I had at a Regal Theater. But now I wish I'd seen something good there.

    On that note: Regal sucks the souls out of babies.

  2. Okay so I'm a little late on my reading, but I'm WAY upset that there was no mention of "The Brothers Grimm" and I see that Jess has already beaten me to that point.

    But I mean... C'MON. BROTHERS. GRIMM.

  3. Yeah, Brothers Grimm most definitely was not a proper utilization of the Cinerama's magnificence.


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