Monday, December 13, 2010

Life demands other projects...

Hello all,

It is with substantial sadness that I hereby declare that my project to take over the Uptown cinemas is hereby on, at best, indefinite hold, and realistically, more likely is permanently ceased as of now.

This decision comes for a number of reasons, ranging from difficulties that I've had maintaining traction on the project, to, most recently, my partner of 4 years and I deciding that it was time to move on.  I think without her in my life (in the same way, at least -- I do very much imagine that we'll stay friends), that it's time for me to do some life re-evaluation stuff that I've been thinking about anyway.  Which very possibly means that I'll be leaving the country in the not-too-distant future (for an unknown period of time), so... running a theatre here would certainly be impractical, if I do that.

On the other hand, perhaps the re-exploration will re-invigorate this interest, and I'll pick it back up at some point.  Only time will tell.

For now, though, I wish to thank all of you who have lent your support, from small words of encouragement through help with research, and various other things along the way.  Your help and/or encouragement has truly meant a lot to me, even though this project has seen little in the way of outward activity.

Final note:

If anyone else is interested in helping to make the Uptown re-open, I would be happy to share information that I've obtained, and/or encouragement, and/or provide help in other ways.  I think it's a great space, and deserves to live on as a theatre.


- David

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New vision for the Uptown... an (ad-free, community-friendly) introduction

First, apologies for being absent this past week.  I'm still here, I still want to run the Uptown, and I still intend to post updates to this blog.

One thing that has caught my attention in talking about this to people, is that several people have asked me, in essence, "why?"  Why do I want to run the Uptown?  Why does Seattle need another Movie venue?  What's the point?

Well, there are a number of reasons for my interest in doing this.  And over the coming days, weeks, months, I intend to share at least many of them with you here.

I think it's important to point out that this is something that I've been dreaming of doing since long before the recent closure of the Uptown.  So it's not at all just that the doors closed, and I want them back open.  That was just the precipitating factor for me to actually put some effort into making it happen -- because without doing so, I risk having nothing in that spot, and that's worse than what was already there.

Which seems to imply that what was already there was bad already, if nothing is "worse", right?  Well, yes and no.  It's less that it was bad, than that I had vision for how it could be better.

First, let me go ahead and put out there my rough-draft version of a mission statement:
To create and sustain a community-centric movie theatre in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, at the historic Uptown Cinema building.
That's what I'm going for, in a nut-shell.  But perhaps that doesn't really answer the question.  So, let's talk a little about what I imagine seeing there.  There are a number of ways I could approach this.  Having thought about it a bit, the way I've decided I'd like to approach it is in a sort of story-telling manner.  So, here goes:

In ages past, and perhaps even today, in corners more remote, there was this thing called "community".  People talked to each other, knew their neighbors, shared ideas, created things together.  And sometimes they feuded -- with familiarity can come fondness, but also it can breed contempt.  But they knew each other.  They talked.  Or if they didn't talk, it was out of a specific animosity, rather than indifference.  They had time to interact, and they used that time to do so.

Along comes modern society... This "connected" society, and we seem rarely to interact with the people next to us.  Instead, we stare at advertisements, mesmerized, and don't say a word (until, in some cases, we get to the check-out counter, to purchase the advertised item, and are "forced" to interact with the sales clerk).  And in modern movie theatres, it's gotten pretty bad.  Where once there were "trailers" -- previews for other movies -- now there are advertisements for all manner of things: from the soft drinks and pop corn they want you to buy at the concession stand, for 1200% more than the cost of such things, to the automobiles that they want you to arrive to the theatre in.

Until one day, in one small way, someone decides to make a difference.  They open up a new movie theatre.  Well, really, it's an old movie theatre, just opened under a new vision.

There are no ads.  Not even ads for other movies that are coming.  Perhaps there's an announcements board somewhere, so that those wanting to know what's coming have a manner of finding out, but when you come in to see a film, all you see is film -- perhaps there are appetizers in the form of short films related to the main feature, but it's still film.  It's still art.

And the art is respected -- the house lights stay low until the last of the credits has rolled off the screen, and the projection isn't interrupted, even if it seems everybody has walked out from that, because, well, the credits are so frequently so long, what with film productions being such a major endeavor these days.

Though hopefully the audience stays in their seats, or gets up only to make the quick trip to the WC that they've been needing to make, only to return presently, for the post-film discussion -- perhaps with the director, especially if it happens to be a local film, or perhaps with just a facilitator, encouraging audience members to share thoughts, perhaps sharing thoughts from previous audiences of the same film.

People talk, they mingle, they communicate.  And if they come regularly, they get to know each other.

In this new theatre, they've found a place to breed a sense of community.  Community that extends, then, outside these walls.  The end is just the beginning...

The above is a small tidbit of my vision for things.  Is it realistic?  Who knows?  I certainly don't expect everything from the above to happen right off the bat.  But that's not the point of vision, is it?  It's not to see what will be tomorrow, but what could be, off in the more distant future, and thus to lead the taking of steps in that direction, so that perhaps one day that distant future can be arrived at.

And this is just one way I imagine the future could be, if I was running the Uptown Cinemas.

There are many more stories to tell.  I expect I'll be posting periodically under the "vision" tag.  I hope you'll comment on these stories -- both pro and con -- and help me both to shape my vision, and to motivate it.

More to come.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Call for Volunteers

Well, today has been a busy day.  Alas, it has been busy almost exclusively with things unrelated to my efforts to save/re-open the Uptown.  And tomorrow is looking to be... different, but similarly occupied.

So, I'm making a public plea:

Anyone interested in helping me in my efforts, I could use some volunteers to help me with (at this point) various research projects.  Right now, research is the main thing I'm looking for -- finding names and numbers for people to talk to, figuring out costs and things to put into a business plan, looking into funding possibilities, things like that.  A lot of it can likely be done on-line with your web browser.  Other stuff might require phone calls, or going downtown.  I'm happy to only give you tasks that you're comfortable doing, though.

Your efforts would be greatly appreciated, of course.  They'll serve another purpose, too, though: Having people reporting to me on things will help me make sure this task stays at the forefront of my priorities, and continues to move forward.  And in thanks, there's likely a little something in it for anyone who helps out... Perhaps it would be worth helping, just to see what that might be?

So, drop me an e-mail, and we'll talk about how best you might be able to help.

In the future, I'm sure other sorts of volunteers would be handy, as well.


Monday, November 29, 2010

1st Contact with the owners

1st contact has been made!  After some time spent doing other research and behind-the-scenes planning work, I've just called the ownership of the Uptown space.

I just spoke with Claire, the wife of Craig, who, according to someone at AMC yesterday, is the person in charge of the company that owns the space.

She tells me a few things:

  • Craig has been getting lots of calls about this space, "as you can well imagine".
  • AMC's lease on the space continues through, she thinks, 2014.
  • Craig and other interested parties are currently in the process of trying to ascertain AMC's intentions.
I also told Claire a tiny bit about me, and what my interest was.

She says she'll get back to me.  In the mean time, I have some contact info for people at AMC; perhaps I'll try talking with them directly, as well.  Hopefully Craig will give me a call back, though, as well.

More to come!

The Neptune: Also closing, or changing forms?

I just heard on KUOW that what has already been rumored on SLOG is confirmed: that The Neptune in the U-district is also slated to close, in February.

I'm afraid it's beyond my scope to take on that cause, as well.  One theatre is all I can handle, at least for now.  I'm I'm successful with the Uptown for a while, then I might be able to consider helping out with others, as well.  For now, though, my focus will be exclusive to the Uptown.

The good news, though, is that there are rumors that STG is to take over the Neptune, and turn it into a performance venue.  Here's hoping it does in fact stay alive, one way or another -- I'm all for live theatre, as well, so I'd likely be supportive of such a move.

Good luck, Neptune!

More status updates on my mission to re-open the Uptown coming soon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Uptown Cinemas closes; long live Uptown Cinemas!

Thanks to a meetup on the final night, it has come to my attention that The Uptown Cinemas is closing its doors tonight! (The Uptown Cinemas is a movie theatre in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle; it quickly became my favorite movie venue when I moved to Seattle in 2003, though it's been around since 1926.)  Apparently, AMC felt it was no longer "[competing] effectively in the marketplace".

Well, I've been day-dreaming for several years now, actually, about taking the place over and making it a discount theatre of some sort.  Cheap tickets; inexpensive concessions; themed movie nights; and much much more!  I've been dreaming about it for years, and with AMC closing its doors, I guess it's time to turn this dream into reality!  I envision this re-vitalizing as a community-oriented movie theatre for everyone from Uptown to Downtown and beyond.

I went there this evening to watch what would be my last screening there under the AMC umbrella: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.  I enjoyed the film (quirky; what else could we expect from Woody Allen?) and the company (from the meetup).  The best part, though, was a chance to do a bit of research.  I asked for a manager, to get information about the ownership of the place.  I wish I'd jotted down her name, I think it was DeAnna?  Anyway, my thank you to her for providing me with information about the owner/landlord of the building.

Meanwhile, I've also started writing up a document about my plans for the place.  And now, I'm starting this blog, so I can keep folks updated, and the word can be spread

Next steps:

  • Contact the landlord, to ask them about their plans for the space, and/or to get a read on what it might take to gain control of the space, so that it can be re-opened.
  • Work more on fleshing out my planning document.
  • Gather supporters around this, and get feedback from them. 
  • Begin the process of writing a formal business plan.
  • Make it happen!

So if you're in a position to help -- from moral support to business plan writing to financial backing, I'd love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment on the blog, and/or drop me an e-mail, at savetheuptowncinema at gmail dot com (please pardon the obfuscation; spam is so insidious).

I'm looking forward to making this happen!