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Columbia City Cinema In Danger Of Closing, But You Can Help

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This isn’t the freshest news in the world, but on the heels of the closure of the Uptown theater on lower Queen Anne, and the announced closing of the Neptune in the U-District, it seems appropriate to talk about how the Columbia City Cinema, an independent theater located on Rainier Avenue South, is also in danger of shutting its doors. In this scenario, however, there is a way that you may be able to help.

In order to pay off a large sum of accrued debt, and also install an $80,000 sprinkler system to bring the entire building up to code, the spunky little theater-that-could is offering 480,000 shares of stock for the bargain basement price of $1 per share (though the minimum purchase is 100 shares). This isn’t necessarily stock in the traditional sense, but if you go here and read their offering agreement, it explains exactly what the deal is. Essentially it is a fundraiser, and a way for the community to get involved in preserving a valuable piece of their neighborhood. The funds will be held in escrow, keeping them safe and sound in case they don’t raise the necessary amount, and all monies will be returned if this attempt falls short.

This has been going on for a few months, but over Thanksgiving weekend the cinema announced that they need to sell 50,000 shares of stock by January 1st, or they will be forced to close. Columbia City Cinema first opened in 2004. Owner Paul Doyle told the Seattle PI that their financial problems began in earnest in 2007,

“[W]hen our downstairs tenant defaulted on the rent. When we got rid of him, we were paying double rent because we had a vacant downstairs. We needed to do something immediately.”

The theaters then expanded into the open space, adding more screens, but accumulating a large amount of debt. With no funds in place for expansion, they funded the maneuver through a series of “short-term, high-interest” methods. The kicker came when the city said that since they had remodeled, they also needed to install the pricey sprinkler system. Without the sprinklers, the cinema employees are required to do a complete fire watch throughout the entire building to make sure that no fires have erupted. And they are required to do this every 15 minutes. Thus far this duty has been performed nearly 20,000 times.

Columbia City Cinema is located at 4816 Rainier Ave S, just a few blocks off the new light rail. Go to their website for more information on how you can help, or perhaps just pop in and see a movie.