‘A 24-day celebratory wake’ — SIFF 2015 will include Harvard Exit

FEST2015_HarvardExit_Promo_440x300Talk about an epilogue. After burying it with a bit of an unceremonious January funeral and sorting out what comes next with its ghost, the historic Harvard Exit will make a surprise comeback for a special limited engagement this spring as part of the 41st annual Seattle International Film Festival.

SIFF announced the plans Thursday to incorporate the Roy at Broadway venue slated for redevelopment as a preservation-friendly office and food+drink project. Work is slated to begin on the 1925-built building this summer with new tenants moving in by early 2016.

Developer Scott Shapiro paid $2.35 million for the building in a deal that closed in January according to King County Records.

“The Harvard Exit is one of my favorite SIFF venues,” SIFF artistic director Carl Spence is quoted as saying the announcement. “I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to properly say goodbye to this important cinematic institution by throwing a 24-day celebratory wake.”

SIFF’s longtime technical provider and sponsor, McRae Theatrical, will install a temporary “state-of-the-art digital projection and sound system” for the festival run.

In 2014, SIFF took over E Pine’s Egyptian Theatre and will also continue to include that venue in the film festival.

The full announcement on the 2015 festival is below. As part of the announcement, SIFF is offering a set of deals on ticket packages for the festival.


Recently closed theatre to have encore as Festival venue

3/12/2015 | SIFF Festivals
By: Rachel Eggers | 206.315.0683 | rachel.eggers@siff.net

SEATTLE — March 12, 2015 — The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) announced today that the recently closed Harvard Exit Theatre on Capitol Hill will open its doors again as a venue for this year’s Festival (May 14 – June 7, 2015).

The Harvard Exit Theatre, located at 807 East Roy Street on a leafy corner off Broadway, has been a venue for SIFF’s annual Festival for 26 years, beginning in 1989 at the 15th Seattle International Film Festival. Its first night of screenings for SIFF on May 12, 1989, included A Chorus of Disapproval starring Jeremy Irons followed by For Queen and Country starring Denzel Washington. Since that first year, the Harvard Exit has been host to such groundbreaking screenings with filmmakers in attendance such as Richard Linklater with Slacker (1990), David O. Russell with Spanking the Monkey (1994), and Danny Boyle with the U.S. premiere of Trainspotting (1998).

The building was built in 1925 as a clubhouse for the Women’s Century Club. In 1968, it was converted into a cinema house (though the charming lobby was luckily left intact). A woman in 1920s clothing reportedly haunted the building since that time. Landmark Theatres managed the building beginning in 1979.

In January 2015, the theatre closed after the building’s owners sold to developer Scott Shapiro of Eagle Rock Ventures, who worked with SIFF to arrange for one final Festival in the building. In addition, Landmark Theatres left the film screens, speakers, and auditorium seats for SIFF’s use. SIFF’s longtime technical provider and sponsor, McRae Theatrical, will be temporarily installing a state-of-the-art digital projection and sound system. Finally, Rosichelli Design will outfit the lobby. SIFF is grateful to all of these partners who are coming together to make this final Festival outing happen.

“This is so exciting to me, both as SIFF’s Managing Director and as a Capitol Hill resident,” says Mary Bacarella. “I’ve often come to the Harvard Exit to have popcorn and a movie for dinner! From its beginnings as home to the Women’s Century Club to nearly 40 years as an independent art-house cinema, the Harvard Exit has been a hub of energy, ideas, and conversation. We’re here to celebrate that one last time with SIFF 2015 and to remind ourselves that even amidst change, this incredible history informs a still-vibrant arts community here on the Hill. That wonderful community is just one of the reasons we seized the chance to keep the Egyptian alive last year.”

“The Harvard Exit is one of my favorite SIFF venues,” says SIFF’s Artistic Director, Carl Spence. “I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to properly say goodbye to this important cinematic institution by throwing a 24-day celebratory wake. I started with SIFF in 1994 and crossed paths with stellar filmmaking luminaries such as John Sayles, Gregg Araki, Allison Anders and David O. Russell – all screening their films at the Harvard Exit. After SIFF 1998’s Closing Night Gala, I fondly remember celebrating into the wee hours with three Irish men at the Harvard Exit after-after-party with Paul Quinn, Declan Quinn, and Aidan Quinn following the World Premiere of their film This Is My Father. So, it’s with bittersweet excitement that I look forward to revisiting the past and making new memories for one last time.”

The Harvard Exit has been a wonderful venue for SIFF over the years, and this year’s Festival gives Seattle and its film community a chance to celebrate its charm one last time.


Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

6 thoughts on “‘A 24-day celebratory wake’ — SIFF 2015 will include Harvard Exit

  1. Best news I’ve heard all year. I was very upset that the last thing to screen at the Harvard Exit was the terrible HBO show “Looking”. Waiting in line outside the Harvard is one of the most pleasant queuing experiences during SIFF. Not to mention seeing movies inside this beautiful, beautiful building.

    Also, maybe this will persuade the new owner to KEEP A THEATER! Hey, a guy can dream.

  2. I think there’s a valid business argument for keeping the main theater open in that it’s about the only entertainment venue on that end of Broadway, and as such brings people down there. Otherwise it’s just food + drink, so people looking for more will head to Pike/Pine for the full evening’s experience. We just need to get the owner to see that.

  3. Pingback: SIFF 2015 will celebrate at the Egyptian with film (and Kevin Bacon), hold a few last picture shows at the Harvard Exit | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  4. Pingback: With last screening at the Harvard Exit, work on restaurant and office project set to begin | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle