I heart The Seattle International Film Festival. Why?

Seattle’s cinema scene has suffered lately, with the closure of two important, historic theaters: the Neptune and the Uptown. The Neptune is now a concert venue… and a good one. But still, it was a sad thing to lose such a beautiful movie house. The Uptown, which rests in the space between the Space Needle and Queen Anne Hill, where I’ve watched countless movies since my college years — L.A. Story, Saving Private Ryan, Armageddon, The Fog of War, Spirited Away, The Royal Tenenbaums, to name a few — has had its good years and its bad years, but it was hard to watch it close.

So yesterday’s news was very exciting… a sign that SIFF is fighting back against the trends, and insisting on the value of seeing great films from around the world on big screens.

They’ve purchased the Uptown, and will have SIFF programming on the big screen there soon.

Photo via the SIFF website.

I won’t complain that it’s become easier for us to watch movies in our living rooms, and to enjoy great pictures and surround sound in our homes. But the communal experience of art is an essential, unifying experience, one that allows us to appreciate the art of big-screen imagery, and that builds community.

There are so many things to enjoy just within shouting distance of this theater: Uptown Espresso, Dick’s (Seattle’s most beloved burger joint), Easy Street Records (one of the last and best record stores in town), T.S. McHugh’s (a great Irish pub), Blue Water Tacos (oh, my gosh, the glory!), Cafe Mecca (legendary dive bar/dinner destination, great for celebrity sightings), Metropolitan Market…. And the Seattle Center is just two blocks away.

When we go out to the movies and see them in a neighborhood that offers a variety of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, we are more likely to settle in and discuss what we’ve seen afterward. The disappearance of movie houses across the country is contributing to the disappearance of discussions… and the less we talk about movies in person, the more our appreciation and understanding of art will diminish.

So three cheers for the Seattle International Film Festival! For twenty-two years I’ve been in love with this city, and one of its greatest charms is its extravagant menu of big-screen experiences. I’m glad to see that somebody is fighting to continue that tradition.