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Originally published April 5, 2012 at 7:35 PM | Page modified April 6, 2012 at 6:27 AM

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Sundance Cinemas to take over, remodel U District Metro Cinemas

Sundance Cinemas plans to take over the University District's Metro Cinemas on May 1 and remodel it to include stadium seats, new projection and sound systems and a lounge with a full bar.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Sundance Cinemas plans to take over the University District's Metro Cinemas on May 1 and remodel it to include stadium seats, new projection and sound systems and a lounge with a full bar.

The 10-theater venue, renamed Sundance Cinemas Seattle, will continue to show movies during the remodel.

It's the neighborhood's second recent movie-house facelift. Last year, the nearby Neptune Theatre converted to a live-music venue.

Metro has been part of the Landmark Theatres chain since 1989, when it was built. After Sundance takes over there, Landmark will have six theaters left in Seattle — the Egyptian, Guild 45th, Harvard Exit, Seven Gables, Varsity and Crest Cinema Center.

Sundance Cinemas Seattle will be Sundance's fifth venue. It also has locations in Madison, Wis.; San Francisco; Houston and one under construction in West Hollywood. A sixth location is set to open in Dobbs Ferry in New York's Westchester County in 2014.

Sundance Cinemas is part of a group of Sundance "entities" overseen by Robert Redford. Others include cable's Sundance Channel, a catalog, and the world-popular Sundance (Utah) Film Festival that Redford founded.

The entities are owned and operated separately. Unlike the nonprofit film festival, the cinemas are for-profit and financed through the hedge fund Oaktree Capital Management.

Started in 2006, Sundance Cinemas is headed by Paul Richardson, former president of Landmark Theatres.

"Personally, I am pleased to have a venue in Seattle again, and can't wait for the opening," Richardson said in a release.

In the same release, Redford said he has wanted a theater in Seattle since Sundance Cinemas began. "Because independence and personal expression have always been encouraged and embraced here, the city's overall cultural vitality make this a particularly exciting community collaboration for us," he said.

Sundance theaters typically host a lot of special events, including film festivals and screenings by filmmakers, said marketing director Nancy Klasky Gribler. They also serve Peet's Coffee and "will have adventuresome things at the snack bar, but there's always popcorn with real butter and soda pop for the purists."

Rachel Rosen, director of programming at the San Francisco Film Society, said the Sundance Kabuki Cinema there is the main venue for the San Francisco International Film Festival and many other festivals. "The venue just has a wonderful feel, which is why so many of us want to hold our events there," she said.

The film festival was at that theater before Sundance arrived in 2006, "but it's definitely a nicer experience for the audience since they've redone the theater, in terms of stadium seating and great presentation."

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AllisonSeattle.

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