The Harvard Exit Theater has officially closed its doors. Set in a century-old building that started out as a women’s club, there were really few theaters like it. Ballrooms had been transformed into auditoriums, concessions set up in the building’s lobby, and nightly viewings of some of the best offerings independent film was putting out.
My first screening there was The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I was a recent transplant to Seattle, still getting to know my way around. The theater was a magical place – nestled on a little corner just off Broadway on Capitol Hill. Beautiful old building, two screens, and great experiences.
Many more films would follow. Take This Waltz, a double feature of The Spectacular Now in the upstairs auditorium, finishing just in time for me to sprint downstairs, grab a soda, and settle in for Blue Jasmine, the astounding, gut-punching experience of seeing The Act of Killing when it played there for Seattle International Film Festival. Too many films to remember, really.
The Harvard Exit was one of my havens. I spent time living in the Capitol Hill and Eastlake neighborhoods, and it was the perfect pop-in stop on my way home from work. So easy to grab some popcorn and hit the 5:00 show. Though I always did think it was terribly unfair that it didn’t serve the same awesome vegan cookies as its sister cinema The Egyptian, about a mile away. Despite that minor flaw, it was the perfect neighborhood getaway.
Even if I wasn’t particularly jonesing for whatever they happened to be showing – you know how sometimes you just want to go to the movies, and you don’t really give a rat’s ass about what you see? The Harvard Exit was one of my go-to venues for when that urge struck. Because it fed that need, they were always showing something interesting, and whatever I saw would rarely be a waste of my time. Good old Cinema Healing at its finest.
I was in the audience on Thursday evening for one of the theater’s final shows (The Theory of Everything). The theater was as full as it was on any opening weekend, with people seated on the main floor and in the balcony. Congregating one last time to get lost in a story as you can only do within the confines of a darkened movie theater.
An era has ended, but many fond memories remain. As much as this theater will be greatly missed, I’m glad we were all there to give her a proper send-off together.