Seattle’s Cinerama lays off a number of employees during temporary closure of theater for renovations

Cinerama in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Update, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect news about employee layoffs.

Seattle’s Cinerama, the high-tech movie theater owned and operated by the late Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc., is closing for renovations it was announced Tuesday — and with the temporary closure, an undisclosed number of employees lost their jobs.

Cinerama tweeted about the closure on Tuesday and sent an email to moviegoers saying that they’ve been operating nearly nonstop for over five years and have had over a million guests come through the doors. The plan is to reopen “later this year ahead of the year’s biggest films,” but it wasn’t clear if that meant in time for summer blockbusters, or later in the season, in time for what it is traditionally more Oscar-worthy offerings.

The renovation will address normal wear and tear throughout the building, replacing carpet and so forth. And an overhaul of the kitchen will enable the theater to expand on its food offerings, Vulcan said.

The Cinerama’s social media posts on Facebook and Instagram were filled with comments from people who said staff members at the theater were informed Tuesday that they were losing their jobs.

“We retained the necessary staff to complete the renovation,” a Vulcan spokesperson told GeekWire. “We were unable to retain concession staff, since we will be closed and unable to give staff hours over the next several months. While we don’t discuss employment terms publicly, we are working with impacted individuals to ease their transition.”

The Stranger reported that a majority of Cinerama employees were laid off Tuesday without notice. Nearly 30 employees were gathered for a 10 a.m. meeting at the theater where they received exit paperwork, The Stranger said.

Mark Hanscomb, a seasonal concession worker during the holidays spoke to The Stranger and posted about the layoffs on his own Facebook feed:

(Facebook screen grab)

Cinerama, which opened in 1963 and was purchased by Allen in 1998, last underwent a major start-of-the-art technology upgrade in 2014. Vulcan said during the renovation the theater will be in search of a new general manager to oversee the day-to-day operations.

According to The Stranger, employees who lost their jobs were given a document from Vulcan containing a FAQ about what was happening. A break in film programming apparently provided the timing needed for the renovation. Employees were also told they will be able to reapply when the Cinerama reopens.

Previously: Behind the scenes at Cinerama: Landmark movie house becomes an international pop culture draw

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