January 8th, 2015: Harvard Exit’s last day as a cinema

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

UPDATE: Change in plans. A sign posted at the theater now says the Exit’s last screenings will be on Thursday night, January 8th.

You have just a little more than a week to say goodbye to the Harvard Exit with a movie inside the historic Capitol Hill art house set to be radically overhauled as part of a new food, drink, and office project.

The Exit’s 46-year run as a movie theater ends with a final day of screenings on Sunday, January 11th, according to an announcement for one event marking the end of the 1925-built building as a cinema. There has been no announcement from the Landmark Theatres chain that operates the Harvard Exit about plans for any special showings on the final weekend. A party to preview a new season of one of HBO’s shows is slated for Harvard Exit’s final Friday. The theater is currently showing the Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything. Showtimes are 1:30, 4:15, 7:05, and 9:30 PM.

Earlier this month, CHS broke the news that real estate investor Scott Shapiro was purchasing the old masonry building and making plans to overhaul the structure’s interior. Shapiro told CHS a restaurant or cafe will likely take over the building’s 1,500 square-foot lobby, while he envisioned a bar moving into the 2,200 square-foot basement. The rest of the building will become “creative offices,” including the two 5,000 square-foot theater spaces and two upper floors of existing offices. Erected in 1925 as a clubhouse for the Woman’s Century Club, the Harvard Exit falls within the Harvard-Belmont Historic District’s protections on changes to the building’s exterior. Shapiro expects new tenants to begin moving into the project by spring of 2016.

The closure of the last of the old-school commercial “art house” film venues on Capitol Hill leaves a handful of new-era film destinations continuing to operate in the area. In October, SIFF reopened the Egyptian Theatre for a new, 10-year run under the non-profit’s wings. Meanwhile, 12th Ave and 23rd and Union continue to produce new and innovative and fun film experiences at Northwest Film Forum and Central Cinema.

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13 thoughts on “January 8th, 2015: Harvard Exit’s last day as a cinema

  1. Wondering how this will impact other local businesses. The annual SIFF brings in a big customer base during the summer when Cornish College isn’t in session. Places like the Joe Bar Cafe, for instance, need that extra boost to stay solvent throughout the year. Essentially this theater creates a destination for this end of Broadway, it’s hard to comprehend how yet another bar and restaurant (that will probably be too expensive for most locals to frequent) could do the same for the micro economy here. “Creative office” employees could help assuage the hole that will be left, but we’ll see how that works out in the long run.

    The value of the property is in the neighborhood’s uniqueness. Ironically the Harvard Exit is a core feature to this uniqueness, destroying it will very possibly destroy the value of the neighborhood, along with this very property. The end result might be that the surrounding small, locally owned, businesses may not be able to make ends meet. The closure of these other shops will reduce the appeal of this neighborhood, and therefore reduce the appeal of the Woman’s Century Club property itself.

    It seems a more pragmatic approach (and a way to reduce the ire and boycotting of the vociferous locals) would be to preserve at least the downstairs theater and go the route of something like the Neptune, where there could be live shows (and maybe feature more sophisticated stuff like, sat, Kronos Quartet instead of another rock venue), and still make the theater available for cinema showings like SIFF. This could be fabulously integrated into the whole bar/restaurant concept and a win-win for everyone.

    I’m sure this development company has done their market research however and are willing to take those hits for whatever reason.

    Cheers.

    • Joseph, I couldn’t agree with you more. The Exit is a core component to SIFF and the LGBT film festival. If Shapiro wants to put a cafe/restaurant and bar in the proposed spaces, fine. It seems to me that preserving the theaters as performance art space not just for cinema but also for concerts, dance, lectures, readings and what not would complement a bar and restaurant. I do not see how office space will complement not only a bar and restaurant but the neighborhood as well.

      This is a very bad idea and is a serious blow to the Capitol Hill community.

    • My guess is they’re counting on folks who are new to Seattle and short term “weekend” visitors (from Bellevue or wherever, like down in Pike/Pine) to fill the gap.

      It will be a long time before the rest of us forget, if ever.

    • “The value of the property is in the neighborhood’s uniqueness. Ironically the Harvard Exit is a core feature to this uniqueness, destroying it will very possibly destroy the value of the neighborhood, along with this very property. The end result might be that the surrounding small, locally owned, businesses may not be able to make ends meet. The closure of these other shops will reduce the appeal of this neighborhood, and therefore reduce the appeal of the Woman’s Century Club property itself.”

      Excellent point.

    • Let’s not rule out hope. Perhaps the one thing fans and lovers of The Exit can do is an to appeal to save the lower theater as some form of venue for not only cinema, but also for concerts, performance art, lectures, readings etc. A restaurant and bar would dovetail with such a venue quite nicely and the surrounding businesses and neighborhood would benefit as well.

      Please send an email to Scott Shapiro at scott@eaglerockventures.com and ask him to reconsider his plans. Please be civil and constructive in your remarks and let’s work with him, not against him to make the redevelopment of The Exit a win-win for everyone.

    • Great idea Carla. From what I’ve heard is they (the developers) didn’t want to be venue/cinema managers. I wonder if they’d be closer to reconsidering restoring/saving the old ballroom if there was a well vetted company willing and able to manage it.

    • I just wrote a letter to Scott Shapiro saying just that. Please do so as well and ask others to send him an email. Remember, let’s be civil and mindful and work with him, not against him.

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