Guide to Independent Movie Theaters
Seattle is brimming with independent theaters, and even an annual indie film festival. There are lots of great venues for seeing a foreign film, art cinema, family classic or first-run movie. Here are a few of our favorites.
2100 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
Just after the Space Needle and the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair came the Cinerama. Built in 1963, the theatre is now owned by philanthropist and investor Paul G. Allen, who saved it from demolition in 1988. Vulcan Inc. directed a spectacular restoration of the theater’s early 1960s interiors and brought back the massive, curved screen used for special presentations of Cinerama and 70mm wide-screen movies. Seattle Cinerama is one of only three theaters in the world that can show original three-strip Cinerama films. The Cinerama has recently re-opened with a fresh restoration and technical upgrade, ensuring its movie-theater supremacy. And keeping it local, you can enjoy Seattle-area concessions like Theo chocolates, Cupcake Royal, Miro Tea, Caffe Vita — and don’t miss out on our Chocolate Popcorn. Showing first-run movies from the chain-style theaters to indies and art cinema.
The Big Picture
2505 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
Third generation theater owners Mark and Katie Stern run The Big Picture in Seattle and in Redmond. Named by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the eight best theaters in the country, Big Picture caters to an over-21 crowd, simply because there is a full-service bar for movie-goers. Arrive at the theater early and enjoy an after dinner cocktail. Order another to be delivered to you during the show. Popcorn is gourmet, with white cheddar sprinkles, and served in champagne buckets. Seating at the Belltown location is intimate at just under 100. The inside makes you feel like you walked onto the set of Casablanca, and “play it again, Joe” is sitting at the piano. The Redmond location is a bit more modern, with animal prints and red walls. The seats at both locations have foot rockers, so you can put your feet up, just like your favorite recliner at home.
1403 NE 50th Street
Seattle, WA 98105
Opened in 1968 by Randy Findley in a converted dentist’s office, Grand Illusion became Seattle’s first arthouse and showcased foreign and revival films. The non-profit film arts organization, Northwest Film Forum, saved the theater from closure in 1997, remodeled it, and revitalized interest in the venerable institution. The theatre, draped in red curtains makes you feel like you’re in a private viewing theater circa 1930. Since 2004 a strong group of dedicated staff and volunteers, focus all attention and energy on the continued tradition of this treasured cinema. Now it’s a completely volunteer-operated, non-profit movie theater in Seattle’s University District. They take money the old-fashioned way – cash or check, so don’t plan to use credit. Good actors from a bygone era still light up the screen at the Grand Illusion. And “It’s a Wonderful Life” is guaranteed to play every holiday season.
SIFF Cinema at the Film Center
Seattle Center, Northwest Rooms
305 Harrison Street
Seattle, WA 98109
SIFF is a constantly innovating year-round film organization that brings to Seattle edgy international and independent film, actors, and filmmakers that might otherwise be overlooked. Plus classics and first-run films for the entire family. With two locations, including the Uptown on Queen Anne, there are plenty of unique indie films year-round at SIFF.
SIFF has evolved into one of the leading independent and international film institutions in the United States and the world. With extensive local, national, and international media coverage, the annual Festival is one of Seattle’s most accessible and highly–publicized cultural events.
Pacific Science Center IMAX
200 Second Ave. North
Seattle, WA 98109
Surprised? Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is a non-profit, independent museum, with two IMAX theaters (one of only a few places in the world with more than one). You’ll find first-run, 3D, and independently made films and documentaries at the IMAX at the Pacific Science Center. Plus, by purchasing tickets to Pacific Science Center’s IMAX films, you not only enjoy a premier theatergoing experience, you also support science education for children and families throughout Washington. Tickets can be purchased online.