Tuesday , October 27 2020

Light, camera, Amazon: Should the technology giant buy the legendary Cinerama cinema in Seattle?

The Cinerama cinema in Seattle in the Belltown district. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Seattle love to come out of the rain for a movie. Especially when there is chocolate popcorn.

When news came on Wednesday that Seattle was popular Cinerama – in possession of the estate of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – extended its closure to "for the foreseeable future". The response was anything but "Seattle nice".

"God, that's absolute Bowel stroke"Said a fan on Twitter.

"Brutally," said longtime tech journalist Nick Wingfield from Seattle.

Others were less reluctant, and part of the anger was directed at Vulcan, the company that manages Allen's estate. As the stranger put it so succinctly:

But maybe not everything is lost. And here's an idea that may be as crazy as some of the cinematic twists that have taken place in the Palace of Cinema since it opened in 1963:

Amazon should buy and preserve Cinerama.

There is certainly a PR and community case, but this also makes business sense, especially for a technology giant who wants to diversify their commitment to the hometown where they have seen such amazing growth.

Amazon built the Spheres as another unique part of the Seattle landscape – but they're for employees. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Listen to us …

  • Place. Place. Place. Cinerama is barely a stone's throw from Amazon's global headquarters.
  • Since Amazon is said to have the AMC film chain in mind, Cinerama would be a simple test bed for owning a cinema. (And Amazon has enjoyed trying new business concepts in its hometown in the past).
  • The facility could serve as a cool meeting place or meeting point for Amazon employees. After all, cinemas don't do much business from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. If Amazon could build The Spheres, why not keep Cinerama?
  • Don't forget that Amazon, with its own studio, original content, streaming service and more, has become a juggernaut in the entertainment business. Adding a high-tech movie house to the Empire could be a great way to showcase much of what it is on a very big screen everything Screens.
  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a science fiction nerd, so Cinerama could be used to scratch this itch. Imagine live rocket launches from Blue Origin displayed on this screen.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos talks about the new Bezos Center for Innovation at MOHAI in Seattle in 2013. (GeekWire File Photo)

Of course, Amazon, which owns a beloved institution in Seattle, can be a non-starter for many who are already criticizing the technology giant for various reasons. And some will argue that we can't just rely on technology giants and their billionaires to keep cultural institutions alive. (Although we could also point out that the only reason Cinerama currently exists is the passion of one of these billionaires).

Maybe that's why Amazon shouldn't do this alone.

Maybe an alliance with the creative at the Seattle International Film Festival face his own struggles the idea could be realized during the COVID-19 pandemic. Or a community-led campaign with Amazon that brings together the dollars raised, as was the case with the KNKX public radio station in Tacoma. The city of Seattle, the Downtown Seattle Association, the Seattle Chamber and other groups should also get involved.

Whatever happens, this is a good opportunity for the city – all aspects of the city – to work together. I know that it's not easy to understand in Seattle.

And although Amazon has not transferred its name to a local sports stadium like other companies, it has distributed some money. In 2013, Bezos donated $ 10 million to the Museum of History and Industry to set up a center for innovation on its behalf. Just last week, the company showed a new 8-story homeless shelter that it had built into one of its office towers in coordination with Mary’s Place.

Buildings and landmarks in the Seattle skyline will be colored blue in honor of Paul Allen in November 2018. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

An old adage came up every time a cultural icon stood in front of the wrecking ball in Seattle: Maybe Paul Allen will buy it.

And the wild thing about them is how the multi-faceted billionaire threw his money through the city and beyond, often preserving historic buildings or artifacts – or even a soccer team that threatened to move. Cinerama was just becoming another feather in Allen's Arty Cap when he bought it in 1998.

The Microsoft co-founder’s money helped shape Seattle, and whether or not you liked a lot of what he did, his wealth is embedded in the city in an unusual and exciting way.

Paul Allen
Paul Allen, owner of Seattle Seahawks, will be honored by the CenturyLink Field team in December 2017, 20 years after he prevented the NFL franchise from leaving. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Now, less than two years after Allen's death, we are wondering who will stand up to preserve and support some of the cultural touchstones that make Seattle unique. Vulcan's announcement on Wednesday not only made Cinerama uncertain, but also the future of the Living Computers Museum + Labs (see more 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 unique cinema. Can we preserve Seattle's culture at a time when a massive health and economic crisis is leaving so much devastation? Can it happen at a time when Seattle's greatest – and quirkiest – philanthropist has disappeared?

It is indeed a slap in the face. We couldn't have said it better.

It's worth asking if Amazon could help distract the blow.

Geek Life reporter Kurt Schlosser contributed to this report.

About Darrel Hodges

Darrel Hodges works as a computer technician at a technology company.

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