Nine months after the screen went dark at The Egyptian Theatre, the lights are still out at the at the prominent Capitol Hill cinema space. But CHS has confirmed the 600-seat theater will raise its curtain once again when it plays its part in hosting the 40th annual Seattle International Film Festival this May.
“It’s good to be able to use the Egyptian after being dark for so long,” said SIFF’s Rachel Eggers. “We love having SIFF on Capitol Hill and love being able to connect with the community.”
Eggers said crews will soon begin spiffing up the theater’s interior and putting up some new artwork outside — a welcomed change from the now longstanding “farewell” marquee.
SIFF secures the space for the month-long festival as it awaits word on its longterm proposal for the site. After six months, Seattle Central Community College, which owns the theater, is still evaluating SIFF’s bid to take over a 10-year lease even as SIFF was the only entity to submit a bid. SCCC spokesperson David Sandler said since Landmark Theatres pulled the plug in June, the theater has remained unused.
“We want to do our due diligence and make sure whatever deal we come to is in the best interest of the college,” Sandler said.
The college may make an announcement on the bid in the coming weeks, Sandler said. That would coincide quite nicely with SIFF’s planned April 30th announcement of its 2014 festival lineup.
Should SIFF get the Egyptian longterm, Eggers said the programming would be similar to its Uptown Theater in Queen Anne, with regular film showings and events. The Egyptian was also an early home to SIFF and the non-profit has continued to utilize the space over the years during its massive summer film fest. SIFF would also be well positioned to meet SCCC requirements that a new tenant accommodate SIFF.
In June CHS broke the news that the Egyptian would be closing after the curtains never went up on a midnight showing of Casablanca. The following day, SCCC confirmed Landmark declined to renew their lease on the theater.
But challenges persist for owners and operators of single screen theaters. Last year Landmark, the Mark Cuban-backed theater chain which continues to run the Harvard Exit, dropped Metro, its University District location.
Last year, a school representative told CHS that the previous Egyptian rent paid by Landmark had been in the ballpark of $7,500 per month plus another $900 in taxes. Additionally, according to the request documents, the building has an annual utilities cost around $26,000.
According to the request documents, new tenants were to be evaluated on a set of factors with the heaviest weighting given to “project approach” — including dedication to continuing film festivals at the venue, focus on arts and performance and an organizational ability to “operate a theater.”
In the meantime, the Egyptian’s 1916-built brick building continues to host Seattle Central facilities.
SIFF and the Egyptian share an extended back-story. Built in 1916, the former Masonic temple was bought by SIFF founders Darryl MacDonald and Dan Ireland in 1980. The duo were the first to transform it into the Egyptian-themed theater. After running it for nearly a decade, SIFF sold the theater to Landmark in 1989. SCCC bought the building two years later, keeping Landmark as its tenant.
2014 marks the 40th year for the film festival that organizers say “is the largest, most highly attended film festival in the United States reaching more than 150,000 annually.” The 2014 schedule opens with a gala celebration on May 15th. We’ll be watching for any announcement of a longer run on E Pine.