Update, 11:12 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 3: Looks like the Varsity Theatre will indeed continue as a cinema. Darren Willis, general manager of University District Parking Associates (which owns the building in which the Varsity resides), said this morning, “We’re in the final stages of negotiation with an established operator, and as soon as there’s something official to say, we will.” He anticipated making an announcement about the theater’s future in a week or so.
Original post, Dec. 2: Sad news for fans of one of Seattle’s oldest and most charming moviehouses: The Harvard Exit, built on Capitol Hill in 1925 and an arthouse cinema since 1969, has been sold, and will close its doors in January.
Ted Mundorff, president and CEO of Landmark Theatres, explained in a phone interview that Landmark owned the theater in partnership with another group, and that the latter group decided to sell.
“We certainly had the opportunity to buy them out,” he said, “but the economics were such that we’re just not going to be able to do that.” He said the sale is now in escrow, and that he anticipates the last day of operations to be Jan. 13.
Originally created as a clubhouse for the Women’s Century Club, the Harvard Exit is beloved for its cozy lobby, complete with fireplace and piano. The theater was renovated to add a second screen in the 1980s, in a space that was once the building’s ballroom.
In an announcement first reported by the Capitol Hill Seattle blog, Landmark also said it will no longer operate the historic Varsity Theater in the University District. In that case, Mundorff said, the theater had a month-to-month lease for the property, which has been cancelled by the owners effective Jan. 1. As with the Harvard Exit, Mundorff said that he had not been informed of future plans for the property.
This brings Landmark, which until recently operated eight cinemas in the Seattle area, down to just three properties: the Guild 45th, Seven Gables and Crest Cinema Center. Mundorff said that plans were underway to renovate the Guild 45th, but he could not speak to specifics yet. “We’re in the midst of that planning now — we haven’t pulled permits yet,” he said. “We’ll announce that when it’s concrete.”
This post was corrected Wednesday morning, to remove an incorrect name of Landmark’s partner group.