SIFF all year: "Movie-crazy" Seattle gets another art-house cinema
Building on its record ticket sales the past three years, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) on March 1 will open a year-round...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Building on its record ticket sales the past three years, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) on March 1 will open a year-round venue to showcase top documentaries, independent films and other classics.
The 400-seat SIFF Cinema at McCaw Hall, is part of the festival's grand plan to extend its brand and expand into Seattle Center over the next five years. SIFF will move its headquarters from South Lake Union to Seattle Center by early 2009, and in addition to SIFF Cinema also plans to build a SIFF International Film Center: a two- to three-screen theater with classroom and exhibition space for lectures and other educational programs. That new venture may be up and running as early as 2010, said Deborah Person, SIFF managing director.
"If you have more year-round programs ... you have year-round income," said Person. "It gives us stability and a stronger organization."
Denver and Vancouver, B.C., film festivals already operate art-house theaters, and Toronto is undertaking arguably the most ambitious expansion — a five-story facility with multiple screens and a library.
SIFF Cinema: Opens Thursday at McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St., Seattle. For schedule of upcoming movies, check Seattlefilm.org or call the box office at 206 464-5830; $9 admission or $7.50 for SIFF members and students (with valid membership card/student ID).
Such expansions allow festival organizers to drive up memberships, a major fundraising source, several festival organizers said.
SIFF, a 33-year-old organization, is coming off another year of record ticket sales — a 10 percent increase over the prior year, executives said.
SIFF will hire more staff and already has invested about $300,000 in digital and 35mm projectors and speakers for its new theater, senior officials said.
Located at the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall, SIFF Cinema has stadium-style seating and will be sort of a cinephile's dream house, with Dolby Digital and double the resolution of HD television. "Other than Cinerama, it will be unparallel in the quality of presentation," easily one of the top theaters on the West Coast, said SIFF artistic director Carl Spence.
Under a three-year deal, SIFF will show movies about 200 days annually, with the remaining days reserved for ballet and opera lectures and other events, Seattle Center officials said.
SIFF Cinema is the latest entry in an already crowded niche market — from Grand Illusion Cinema in the University District and Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill to Landmark's Egyptian Theatre and Harvard Exit Theatre on Capitol Hill.
"Things just got more competitive, to be frank," said Michael Seiwerath, executive director of the Northwest Film Forum, which shows 300 documentaries and foreign independent films annually. "But Seattle is a movie-crazy city," with one of the nation's highest per capita moviegoing populations.
The new theater allows SIFF to give encore performances and longer runs for its most popular festival offerings, most of which get to screen only once or twice during the May-June event. Look on the lineup for last year's runaway hit, "OSS 117: Nest of Spies," a French spy spoof that was voted best film by audiences.
The new venue offers relief to moviegoers who find the film festival, one of the largest in North America, too overwhelming. SIFF shows 400 movies in 25 days and is infamous for its telephone-book size movie guide.
At its new theater, SIFF also plans to hold retrospectives, including "Beyond James Bond," a look at spy thrillers in the early 1960s, Spence said. And between March 1 and April 22, SIFF will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Janus Films, a movie company that owns arguably the best collection of foreign movies in the 20th century.
SIFF Cinema will show 32 Janus classics, including Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai, Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" and Francois Truffaut's "Jules and Jim."
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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