Seattleites love coming in out of the rain for a movie. Especially if there is chocolate popcorn.
So whennews hit Wednesdaythat Seattle’s belovedCinerama— owned by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s estate — was extending its closure for the “foreseeable future,” the reaction was anything but “Seattle nice.”
“God this is an absolutegut punch,” said one fan on Twitter.
“Brutal,”said the longtime Seattle tech journalist Nick Wingfield.
人不保留,di的愤怒rected squarely at Vulcan, the company that manages Allen’s estate. As The Stranger so succinctly put it:
This fucking sucks.https://t.co/czjg59qCFT
— The Stranger (@TheStranger)May 27, 2020
But maybe not all is lost. And here’s an idea that’s perhaps as crazy as some of the cinematic twists that unfolded in the palace of cinema since it originally opened in 1963:
Amazon should purchase and preserve Cinerama.
There’s certainly a PR and community case to be made, but this also makes business sense, too, especially for a tech giant looking to diversify its commitment to the hometown where it has undergone such staggering growth.
Hear us out …
- Location. Location. Location. Cinerama is barely a stone’s throw from Amazon’s worldwide headquarters.
- With Amazon rumored to beeyeing movie chain AMC, Cinerama would be an easy test bed for owning a movie theater. (And Amazon, historically, has liked to trial new business concepts in its hometown).
- The facility could double as a cool meeting or gathering spot for Amazon employees. After all, movie theaters don’t do much business from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. If Amazon could build The Spheres, why not preserve Cinerama?
- Don’t forget, Amazon has become a bit of juggernaut in the entertainment business, with its own studio, original content, streaming service and more. Adding a high-tech movie house to the empire could be a great way to showcase — on a very big screen — much of what it makes forallscreens.
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a sci-fi nerd, so Cinerama could be used to scratch that itch. Imagine live Blue Origin rocket launches shown on that screen.
Of course, Amazon owning a beloved institution in Seattle may be a non-starter for many who already criticize the tech giant for a variety of reasons. And some will argue that we can’t rely solely on tech giants and their billionaire founders to keep cultural institutions alive. (Though we could also point out that the only reason Cinerama exists right now is due to the passion of one of those billionaires).
Maybe that’s why Amazon shouldn’t do this alone.
Perhaps an alliance with the creative folks at Seattle International Film Festival, which isfacing its own strugglesduring the COVID-19 pandemic, could bring the idea to fruition. Or a community-led effort with Amazon matching the dollars raised, as happened with Tacoma public radio station KNKX. The City of Seattle, Downtown Seattle Association, Seattle Chamber and other groups should engage, too.
Whatever happens, this is a good opportunity for the city — all aspects of the city — to work together. I know that’s not easy to grasp in Seattle.
And though Amazon hasn’t stepped forward to slap its name on a local sports stadium the way other companies do, it has spread some money around. In 2013,Bezos gave $10 millionto the Museum of History & Industry to establish a Center for Innovation in his name. Just last week the company showed off a new8-story homeless shelterit built into one of its office towers in coordination with Mary’s Place.
An old adage used to pop up every time a cultural icon was facing the wrecking ball in Seattle:Maybe Paul Allen will buy it.
And the wild thing about Allen is how the eclectic billionaire tossed his money around the city and beyond, often preserving historic buildings or artifacts — or even a football team that was threatening to move. Cinerama just became another feather in Allen’s arty cap when he bought it in 1998.
The Microsoft co-founder’s money helped shape Seattle, and, whether you liked much of what he did or not, his riches are embedded in the city in unusual and thrilling ways.
Now, less than two years after Allen’s death, we’re left wondering who will stand up to help preserve and support some of the cultural touchstones that make Seattle unique.Wednesday’s announcement by Vulcanleft uncertainty hanging over not just Cinerama but also the future of the Living Computers Museum + Labs (seemore online outrage), Seattle Art Fair, the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum and more.
In many ways, what happens to Cinerama is much bigger than just a one-of-a-kind movie theater. Can we preserve Seattle’s culture at a time when a massive health and economic crisis is leaving so much devastation in its wake? Can it be done in an era when Seattle’s greatest — and quirkiest — philanthropist is gone?
It’s a gut punch, indeed. We couldn’t have said it better.
It’s worth wondering whether Amazon could help deflect the blow.
Geek Life reporter Kurt Schlosser contributed to this report.