Grand Cinema to open fourth theater

Downtown Tacoma's independent movie house, The Grand Cinema, plans to open its fourth theater today. The $515,000 expansion has been under construction for several months and occupies new space along South Fawcett Avenue.

“We’re really pleased,” said director Philip Cowan. The theater was finished on time and at the planned budget level, of which $460,000 has already been raised.

Carpets and final touches were installed Wednesday, and with inspection approval from the City of Tacoma Thursday the theater is set to open doors today with screenings of the new release “Young Victoria.”

At 103 seats, the theater is The Grand’s second-largest, with the others seating 110, 100 and 78 patrons. The space has been altered from its previous use as an art gallery, with walls and columns painted black, the floor raked, red wall curtains, charcoal carpet and new plush red seats. The screen and projector are similar to the other three theaters, but there is extra lighting for non-cinema uses such as lectures or daytime rentals, Cowan said.

Further renovation plans include an expanded concession stand in the old lobby, slated for January, and a new entrance and ticketing desk in February. The old entrance will become an exit.

“We’re separating traffic and creating more space,” said Cowan.

The new theater will allow more films to be shown at The Grand, Cowan said, and accommodate special events such as festivals and film series. It will also allow longer movie runs, screenings of less mainstream movies and a more predictable schedule.

The decision to expand was prompted by the mid-year ending of The Grand’s lease to the next door Grand Impromptu Gallery, as well as the extension through 2025 of the Grand’s lease for their part of the Merlino Building, owned by P.M. Investments. The expansion plans, drawn up by Belay Architecture of Tacoma, were executed by Lakewood’s Pease Construction Inc.

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568