On August 6th, the Seattle International Film Festival announced that their fundraising drive to help restore and reopen the Egyptian Theater, which has been closed since 2013, had surpassed their $300,000 fundraising goal by approximately 40,000 dollars, and that the theater is now slated to reopen its doors on October 1st.
“To come full circle and have a home once again at the Egyptian means so much to me personally, and to everyone at SIFF,” says Carl Spence, SIFF’s Artistic Director. “We are excited to reopen the SIFF Cinema Egyptian in October and look forward to being an active member of the Capitol Hill community.”
The Egyptian was first built as a Masonic Temple in 1915 at 801 E Pine St and became part of Seattle Central Community College’s campus in 1992 while being operated by Landmark Theaters since the late eighties, but was forced to close down last year after Landmark opted to not renew their lease with the college.
Seattle Central issued a request for proposals for new operators after the theater was shut down, which included an addendum asking whoever eventually took over management of the Egyptian to allow SIFF to continue using the theater for screenings during their film festival. However, it was then announced in May that the college had reached an agreement with SIFF itself to reopen the historic location as the SIFF Cinema Egyptian with an initial lease of 10 years.
“It’s important for Seattle Central to maintain the cultural value of the Egyptian Theater for the benefit of the residents of Capitol Hill and the city of Seattle. We look forward to being a partner with SIFF for many years to come,” said Paul Killpatrick, Ph.D., president of Seattle Central.
But before the theater could reopen, the non-profit organization called on the community to help provide the $300,000 funds needed to make necessary renovations and improvements to the theater.
Although a large percentage of the donations came from one anonymous donor that offered a $150,000 matching donation when SIFF first announced their intention to reopen the Egyptian, many of the donations came in small increments accrued during the film festival’s “Text2Give” campaign, where individuals pledged small amounts similar to public radio pledge drives.
In the three months since the drive began, SIFF announced that they had raised approximately $340,000 to help pay for the renovation, which included critical repairs to the theater’s electrical system, plumbing, ventilation, and the outdoor marquee sign as well as repairing and replacing projectors, sound systems, and interior decorations such as carpeting and painting. SIFF also announced that new bar and concessions area will be added to the theater.
SIFF additionally stated that the donation effort will help cover operating costs, as the film organization will pay the college $2,500 per month rent with a three percent increase each year to account for inflation, as well as all utility payments at the location.
“We’re pleased by this support from the community,” says Mary Bacarella, SIFF’s Managing Director. “This is the largest amount of money that we’ve ever raised in the shortest amount of time through crowdsourcing, and the anonymous match offers got us off the ground. These gestures speak both to the deep connection Seattle has to the theater and to its faith in SIFF, for supporting having this beloved venue in our hands.”
According to Rachel Eggers, the PR manager for SIFF, the success of the Text2Give campaign reflects how the residents of Capitol Hill value the cultural icon as well as the excitement that many feel in how its new management will utilize the location in the coming years.
“This is not usually the way that non-profits, especially arts organizations, have fundraisers,” said Eggers. “We were really wowed by how people jumped on our Text2Give campaign, and we’re not exactly sure how it was so successful, but it’s obvious that people feel very strongly about this theater,” she said.
“I think that there’s a lot of nostalgia for Capitol Hill right now, and the Egyptian is one of those anchor cultural icons of the area. People have loved this theater for years and years, and I hope that part of is that they’re generally excited to see what we’ll do with the theater.”