Allen Buys Cinerama, Showcase For Epic Movies

Paul Allen has purchased the Cinerama Theater on Fourth Avenue, his spokeswoman confirmed today.

The Microsoft co-founder and Seahawk team owner paid $3.75 million for the 860-seat theater owned by Rainier Properties, a division of Diamond Parking.

Susan Pierson, Allen's spokeswoman, wouldn't comment on plans for the 13,000-square-foot facility.

The purchase adds to the sizable portfolio of downtown Seattle real estate that Allen has been amassing in recent years.

Besides owning 11 acres in the South Lake Union neighborhood, Allen is building 1 million square feet of office space in a $250 million redevelopment of Union Station.

The music museum Allen supports at the Seattle Center, the Experience Music Project, is a $60 million project scheduled to open in 1999. Work on Allen's $400 million football and soccer stadium on the site of the Kingdome is expected to begin by September.

The Cinerama was built in the early 1960s to showcase such three-projector Cinerama extravaganzas as "How the West Was Won."

Cineplex Odeon, which took over management of the theater in 1987, planned to close it last year, but the reissue of "Star Wars" kept it open by demonstrating the theater's popularity. The Cinerama outsold any other theater in the Northwest, including the Northgate, Southcenter and Neptune theaters and all the Portland theaters that were playing "Star Wars" at the same time.

Toronto-based Cineplex Odeon now keeps it open on a month-by-month basis. Rainier Properties had talked of turning the building into a dinner theater or a rock-climbing club.

Last year, Matt Luthans, president of the Cinerama Society of Seattle, announced plans to raise money to lease and restore the theater as a showcase for three-projector presentations.

Alex Fryer's phone message number is 206-464-8124. His e-mail address is: John Hartl is a Seattle Times movie reviewer.