Thursday, July 22, 2021

Washington State Phase 4 Reopening: Jun 30 | Seattle Independent Cinema Culture


Much in the way of the regional independent music venues, last year saw all of the greater Seattle area's cinemas close in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Their future remained uncertain until as recently as the February federal stimulus bill and the approval of funding for arts and cultural venues that came with it. Over a year after the pandemic shuttered venues in March 2020, relief funding became available with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally arriving alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The resources offered by the various pandemic relief bills, with regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness, crowdfunding and philanthropy efforts like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have arrived in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions. Significantly, a coalition founded by Janus Films and The Criterion Collection, alongside such notable names in American cinema as Alexander Payne, Ari Aster, Atom Egoyan, Barry Jenkins, Christopher Nolan, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, John Waters, Noah Baumbach, Richard Linklater, Sofia Coppola, and Wes Anderson have donated a lump sum to launch the Arthouse America Campaign. Petitioning the public for support, Christopher Nolan's statement in The Washington Post "Movie Theaters are a Vital Part of American Social Life. They Will Need Our Help", was also a clarion call for the rallying of these essential resources. No discussion of independent film and Seattle would be complete without placing Scarecrow Video at its locus. Recently discontinuing the scheduled appointment format, Scarecrow is now fully open to the public. And while not a theater technically, they do have a screening room and offer more films on hand than any other physical space in North America. Consider the one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and if you live in the Northwest and are a fan of cinema, it's essentially your personal obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. There is no other resource like that of their abundant catalog of obscure, foreign releases, out of print, and ultra-rare editions in the depths of Scarecrow's archive. With nearly 140,000 films on offer, there is no singular online streaming platform that can compare. To keep this singular resource alive and thriving, consider donating. They are currently in the midst of a fundraising Support Scarecrow 2.1: The Campaign for Scarecrow's Future, to ensure their longevity beyond the years of the pandemic. 

As stated under the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery guidelines; "Washington state will no longer evaluate counties based on these Key Indicators of Covid-19 Activity, and the state will fully reopen to Phase 4 on June 30, which could happen earlier if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 get their first vaccine dose." In response, some of the smaller neighborhood independents like Ark Lodge Cinema, Central Cinema, and Far Away Entertainment, are leading the charge by opening in the course of July. Even in advance of the Phase 4 removal of pandemic restrictions, the final remaining regional cinema of the once vast Landmark Theatres chain, The Crest was open and offering screenings with limited capacities. SIFF Cinema have just announced their reopening plans, with renovations postponing one of their three locations; “Similar to other nonprofit arts and culture organizations, our ability to reopen sustainably has depended largely on being awarded the U.S. Small Business Administration Shuttered Venue Operators Grant we applied for in early May. Fortunately, we learned last week that we have received the grant funds and thus are able to move forward confidently with reopening. Our plan is to first open the Egyptian and Film Center in October, followed shortly by the Uptown once that work is complete.” The Grand Illusion Cinema have announced their opening on August 20th with a number of notable screenings rumored to be in the works, and Northwest Film Forum will open their doors to the public mid-September for the Northwest Sightings Festival. Lastly, Columbia City's cinephile paradise, The Beacon Cinema have just recently filled their private rental calendar for July and stated that announcements are coming soon concerning late summer and fall programming. No doubt there will be numerous more cinema announcements, programs and films of note scheduled on the horizon. These only represent the beginnings of a return to something resembling pre-pandemic regularity for our regional film venues this next season.