Thank You For Caring: An Impassioned Plea
Updated: Jul 29, 2021
Context: On May 27, 2020, the Seattle Times reported that Seattle's legendary Cinerama theater would be shutting its doors indefinitely. This article has the details. The following is an open letter to the managing team at Cinerama.
Dear Seattle Cinerama Team:
Despite living in Eugene, Oregon, I have been aware of your esteemed cinema for years. I first learned of your existence when I purchased a Blu-ray of How the West Was Won, which was originally released in the Cinerama surround-screen format. Having never been to Walt Disney World to experience the 360-degree circle-vision presentation shown there, I desperately wanted to experience the original, unadulterated Cinerama format. A Google search revealed that your establishment was the very last of its kind: a living, breathing homage to the history of movies while embracing the future of film.
From the moment I visited your website, it was immediately obvious that you truly care about the movie-going experience. For example, you understand that high-quality projection and sound systems (as well as a well-designed auditorium) are essential to allow theater-goers to experience films the way directors intended. For this reason, I refuse to attend the national-brand theater chains because I am disgusted by their lack of investment in state-of-the-art high-contrast projectors and well-balanced surround sound. If it weren't for the great traveling distance involved, I would have unquestionably visited you every time a major release hit cinemas.
Then, COVID-19 hit. I understand how hard the pandemic hit theaters; after all, I was laid off from my job with Disney because of the tail-spin that the entertainment industry experienced. With social distancing and health guidelines in place, cinemas such as yours were starved for customers.
Simultaneously, the proliferation of video streaming platforms hasted the theater's demise as new releases transitioned away from traditional schedules which prioritized theaters towards distribution agreements that prioritized instant digital access. Understandably, cinemas such as yours were starved for content.
However, these challenges are exactly why independent, local theaters such as yourself need to survive. With the closing of big screens nationwide and people glued to their small screens at home, our connection to our communities and to film creators is being lost. Your unique offering has a real chance to succeed in a post-COVID world: high-quality entertainment in a large population center paired with a unique venue, enviable location, and historic roots. With the support of your fans and the film community, you can revamp and reopen Cinerama, even if it takes a little more time and elbow grease.
Here's the bottom line: James Cameron's second Avatar film is set to release in December 2022, kicking off a series of highly-anticipated films. Whether or not we agree on how "good" Avatar's storytelling was, no one can argue that the release of Avatar in 2009 was a seminal moment that catapulted the film and theater industries into the 21st century. In the same way, the release of Avatar 2 will likely be the biggest event in cinema history, surpassing even Avengers: Endgame. James Cameron doesn't cut corners on his films, and neither do you. He insisted on screening his first Avatar film in 3D, causing theaters to scramble to install new equipment. This single-handedly improved the viewing experience for movie-goers worldwide, as a slew of preceding films took advantage of the projection technology he pioneered. In 2014, you followed James Cameron's lead by investing in enhancing the cinema experience and installing a digital laser projection system that set the new standard for commercial film projection: most notably for your special screening of The Martian. Just as James Cameron was willing to wait fifteen years to develop the technology that was needed to film his latest Avatar films, so too are you willing to patiently wait for the perfect time to reopen Seattle's premiere cinema experience. The perfect opportunity will present itself in the form of James Cameron's Avatar 2.
You might suppose that I am a huge Avatar fan. It might come as a surprise, then, to know that I have never watched the first Avatar film in any format. I was too young to watch it when it first came out in theaters, and I missed the theatrical re-release. I have abstained from watching it on Blu-ray or Disney+ because the only thing Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the only way to appreciate Avatar is to watch it in 3D on the big screen. However, I am not going to miss out on the opportunity afforded by Avatar 2, and neither should you.
You have an incredible chance to introduce a whole new generation to the Avatar film franchise for the very first time, with screenings of both Avatar films in the format that their director intended. Only you have the technological and historical capability to provide the cinematic experience that these films deserve, and this may well be your only chance to get it right.
Please don't miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show audiences what is so special about Cinerama. James Cameron needs you. Seattle needs you. I need you. And yes, I am going to do whatever it takes to watch Avatar and Avatar 2 for the very first time at Cinerama in Seattle in December 2022. If that can't happen, then theater-going truly is dead.
Campus Planning & Facilities Management, University of Oregon
BS in Business Administration, Marketing & Entrepreneurship
P.S. Another incredible reason to re-open: As shown by the incredible success of the hit multi-season show The Chosen, it is possible to raise funds and complete major projects entirely through the generosity of donors when you believe in a project's transformative impact. Screening Season 3 of The Chosen on the big screen would draw enormous support and attendance from fans of the show, which now number in the millions. If you haven't already watched the first two seasons, I encourage you to check them out completely free on the app, which you can download for Apple and Android devices. You will be amazed; it is like no other show you have seen.