SIFF buys Uptown Theatre, becomes permanent Queen Anne resident

SIFF Uptown signThe Seattle International Film Festival has purchased the SIFF Cinema Uptown, becoming a permanent resident of Lower Queen Anne/Uptown. SIFF announced the purchase, with funding from its “Angels of the Uptown,” David and Linda Cornfield, at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

SIFF has leased the Uptown Theatre, built in 1926, for the past two and a half years. Since opening night, SIFF has been a key fixture in Lower Queen Anne – and it’s drawn new customers to neighboring businesses. SIFF estimates it has brought over 500,000 people to the area, exposing them to both new cinematic experiences and the neighborhood.

According to SIFF:

“The SIFF Cinema Uptown has now become the heart of lower Queen Anne. The theatre bolsters many lower Queen Anne businesses by raising the profile of the area and bringing in new audiences to experience what local businesses have to offer.”

The cinema has become a fixture on Queen Anne Ave N, and will remain so for years to come, hosting film festivals, arts programs, and regular movie screenings for both residents and visitors to the neighborhood.

SIFF to reopen Uptown Theater October 20

The Seattle International Film Festival announced Saturday that it will be revitalizing Lower Queen Anne’s historic Uptown Theater, which shuttered its doors back in November after its partent company AMC opted to close the old theater house rather than invest in updates.

SIFF plans to reopen the neighborhood theater in October, as it transitions out of its current location in McCaw Hall, in conjunction with the Grand Opening of its own new SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center. SIFF says the new space will provide the organization with increased seating capacity and three additional screens, which will allow it more flexibility for year-round programming.

When the Uptown Theater closed last fall, many in the community were heartbroken to see the longstanding neighborhood cinema house, originally opened in 1926, fall by the wayside. We reached out to SIFF to see if the organization had any interest or intention of taking over the newly vacated space. At the time SIFF representatives told us they were not in a position to take over the theater.

“It really is unfortunate that Uptown theater is closing. I used to go there many times and even when I was growing up so personally it’s a shame that it is closing,” SIFF representative Tod Steward wrote to Queen Anne View back in November. “Maybe Paul Allen or someone like him would finance it to stay open…just like what he did with Cinerama.”

Fortunately for the Queen Anne community, the tides have changed since last fall. In addition to helping expand its year-round programming, SIFF says the reopening of the theater will give it the opportunity to establish first-class educational programs and solidify the future of the organizations and its programs.

Mayor Mike McGinn came out in support of the deal, stating, “SIFF is one of Seattle’s true treasures not only for the work they do in Film and Education, but for being a leader in our community and saving the Uptown Movie Theatre. The leadership that SIFF is demonstrating should not only be recognized but applauded.”

“On behalf of the Greater Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce, we are especially pleased to endorse the acquisition of the Uptown Theater by the Seattle International Film Festival,” Chamber vice president Ann Pearce said in a statement. “We applaud their actions in preserving a valuable part of Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood and creating more opportunities for Queen Anne community businesses. Another wonderful forum for unique entertainment will now be available for residents and tourists alike to enjoy for years to come!”

“We couldn’t have scripted a better opportunity for our organization than to have SIFF Cinema Uptown and the new SIFF Film Center in such close proximity and located in such a vibrant part of the city. Seattle Center and Queen Anne are the perfect locations for us to expand in and we’re excited to be opening our doors in time for Seattle Center’s ‘Next 50’ celebration next year,” SIFF Artistic Director Carl Spence said.

“We are thrilled to welcome SIFF as a new resident here, and we embrace its move to use the former Uptown Theater space as a SIFF screening venue. What a wonderful means to enlivening the neighborhood and further connecting Seattle Center to the Uptown area,” Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams said.

Shuttered movie house to reopen with new focus

Ballard’s Majestic Bay Theatres (2044 NW Market St) is one of the few remaining independent neighborhood movie houses in Seattle. Lower Queen Anne’s Uptown Theatre closed back in November, and the Neptune Theater in the U District followed soon after, recently closing its doors, the latest casualty to hit Seattle’s small movie houses. Unlike the Uptown Theater, which is sitting empty until AMC’s contract runs out in three years time, the Neptune has been saved from both sitting idle and from the wrecking ball, and will soon become a live music venue.

Students from the UW Entrepreneurial Journalism class, taught by our partners at the Common Language Project, talk with former employees of the Neptune who say the closure could have been prevented.

Continue reading “The rebirth of the Neptune Theatre“

Uptown Theatre closing November 28

It’s a sad day for neighborhood film buffs. This morning Seattle Times moviegoing musings writer Moira Macdonald broke the news that Queen Anne’s Uptown Theatre (AMC Uptown 3) will be closing its doors for good come November 28.

An AMC representative confirmed the closure with Macdonald, adding that the company systematically updates its theatres by upgrading and adding new screens, and “disposing of older screens through closures and sales.” The representative added:

Unfortunately, the AMC Uptown 3 has been identified as a theatre that no longer competes effectively in the marketplace and will close at the end of business on Nov. 28.

“Losing the theater is a real loss to the neighborhood. Any word if a buyer will keep it a movie theater?” Queen Anne-er John Carter told QueenAnneView this morning. He hopes that another local organization will get involved to save the historic theatre, which originally opened with a single screen (with two more added later) in 1926.

“Maybe SIFF would get involved?” Carter wrote. “Even though SIFF has that downstairs theater I know they want more (no money of course) Maybe Vera Project? (no money of course)…Mayor’s Office of Film & Music comes to mind… Save the Uptown!”

I contacted SIFF to see if they, indeed, would be interested and have the resources necessary to take over the Uptown. I received a response almost immediately.

“It really is unfortunate that Uptown theater is closing. I used to go there many times and even when I was growing up so personally it’s a shame that it is closing,” SIFF representative Tod Steward wrote. “Maybe Paul Allen or someone like him would finance it to stay open…just like what he did with Cinerama.” Unfortunately Steward says that SIFF currently is not in a position to take over the theatre.

Although the Uptown plans to close in ten days, what will become of the landmark theatre with the quirky pink marquee is still up in the air. A note to AMC asking about its plans for the property was answered as follows:

“The landlord may be able to answer your questions and/or provide information about the future plans or use of the theatre space,” wrote AMC representative Justin Scott.

We haven’t been able to reach the landlord of the Uptown yet, but will keep you posted as we hear more.

With little time until closing day, some in the community are hoping to find a suitor to not only save the building, but keep it in the business of screening films. Since the news broke this morning Carter has been busy posting notes all over Facebook—on the walls of the Office of Film and Music, Community Cinema, Seattle Area Filmmakers, and others—asking community members to gather in support of the theatre and voice their opinions in our forum and in the comments to this post.