Thursday, September 2, 2021

Seattle Independent Music Venue & Cinema Reopenings Part I: Aug 13 - Sept 30

After a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, programming returns in late August and September to many of the regional independent arts venues. First and foremost, these venues (with the exception of the national theater chains like AMC), are requiring proof of vaccination before being admitted. Prioritizing the safety of their patrons, mask facial coverings and capacity limits have also been established as prerequisites by the below venues. Last month, 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." This was the first major step towards reopening after nearly eighteen months of closure for the regional independent music venues, and Seattle's independent cinemas in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, 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 later relief funding became available for many of these same institutions with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally beginning to arrive, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, with regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have come in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions.
Opening in late August, Scarecrow Video's sister cinema, The Grand Illusion is leading the charge, both with new in-theater programming open to the public, and an overt pandemic policy statement. In their first weeks of programming they will feature Neill Blomkamp's "Demonic", Pablo Larraine's “Ema”, and Quentin Dupieux's “Mandibles”. Up north, Seattle's last remaining Landmark Theatres venue will host Leos Carax's “Annette” and the anthology film “Year of the Everlasting Storm” featuring segments by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jafar Panahi, Dominga Sotomayor, Anthony Chen, Malik Vitthal, and Laura Poitras. The national AMC theaters chain also has a few films of note on offer, with David Lowery's Arthurian fable, "The Green Knight”, the newest film from Paul ShraderThe Card Counter”, after his excellent "First Reformed" of 2018, and this year's Cannes breakout stunner “Titane" from Julia Ducournau. The Beacon also returns with a mixed calendar of private rentals and public screenings on select dates. For September these include Mario Bava's “Danger Diabolique”, Alex Cox's "Repo Man", Robert Downey Sr.'s "Putney Swope", and Benny Chan's “Moment of Romance”. SIFF Cinema have announced their opening next month with a full October calendar. Northwest Film Forum initiates their return with the Local Sightings Festival and later in the month Arie & Chuko Esiri's “Eyimofe” and Spike Lee's David Byrne concert film, “American Utopia”. Select music offerings of note in September include James Blake and Herbie Hancock a day apart both at The Paramount. The latter returning to Seattle after his stunning 2019 tour with Kamasi Washington and band supporting. Saharan guitar virtuoso Mdou Moctar and band will be at the newly opened The Crocodile which, a week later will also host Xiu Xiu's tour for their most recent album, "Oh No". That same weekend, Seattle Symphony will be presenting works by Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky in their opening night gala. Kelly Lee Owens will be performing her enveloping, rhythmic electronic albums on Scandinavian label Smalltown Supersound at Neumos and experimental, ambient, and magnetic tape composer William Basinski will be presenting the 20th anniversary of his "Disintegration Loops" at Fremont Abbey. Photo credit: Jessica Bartolini