Lights out for the Egyptian Theatre?

When word got out this week that Landmark's Egyptian Theatre—a single-screen movie theater on Capitol Hill that's been a city staple for arthouse and independent films for more than 30 years—would close on June 27, it made former deputy director Gary Tucker "sick to my stomach."

"I spent my formative years there," through most of the 1980s, he told me Tuesday. "What I learned from Dan [Ireland] and Darryl [Macdonald, who ran the Egyptian before the Landmark chain took over in 1989] kind of made me who I am. The skills and the contacts and the friendships and the sense of humor were all really pivotal." Earlier this week Tom Tangney recalled Tucker's "quippy introductions" to movie screenings, which "were often as popular as the films themselves. ... Tucker used to jokingly answer the phone 'World Famous Egyptian Theatre' so often, that the moniker stuck."

Though "world famous" is a tough sell, the Egyptian does have some history: Built in 1915 as a Masonic temple, the space has been used as a dance hall, a site for professional wrestling matches, a theater, and the home to the Seattle International Film Festival. Seattle Central Community College bought the building in 1992; and Landmark Theatres has been renting the space since 1989, until it failed this month to renew its lease.

Running a single-screen cinema is a tough business when a) the building needs renovation (um, better seats please) and b) multiplexes and Netflix/Hulu/HBO GO/you-name-it make moviewatching an on-demand experience. But that doesn't mean the Egyptian should go unused. There's talk that more than a dozen organizations have expressed interest in the building. I asked Tucker for his short list:

Northwest Film Forum
GT: "They’re right up the street. They provide a service that not many other film centers do. They run a very tight ship, and it would be great to see them get the opportunity to expand. I don’t think they could afford it. I don’t know what the lease is. Film Forum just went through a successful campaign to convert their auditorium to digital, so they probably don’t have tons of money lying around." In other pertinent news, Film Forum just announced that programming director Adam Sekuler will step down in October.

Seattle Arts and Lectures or Elliott Bay Book Company
GT: "The stage is really, really small. It’s a very shallow stage. It was meant for, basically, bands and speakers. I would be nice if Seattle Central would use it during the day for classes, to help subsidize the auditorium usage at night. Knowing that stage, it’s not really good for theater unless you’re doing very small stuff. I think it would be terrific for someone like Seattle Arts and Lectures or Elliott Bay to do a lot of their author events, instead of going all the way to Town Hall [or Benaroya Hall]."

My thoughts...
Three Dollar Bill Cinema
The LGBT film organization could also use a dedicated home to showcase the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, maybe even expand its year-round programming (admittedly, with an infusion of cash) a la SIFF Cinema. Speaking of...

SIFF Cinema
The obvious choice, given the film festival's history with the Egyptian and its willingness to revive the Uptown Cinema in Lower Queen Anne. But do they have the need?

6/21/13. Updates on the Egyptian Theatre lease and potential tenants via CHS blog.

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