By Doug Gritzmacher
Denver Video Production
In 1995 I was a freshman at the University of Washington in Seattle. I didn’t have the money to afford living on campus that year, so I commuted from my parents house in Lake Stevens, about a 50-minute drive to the north. Being a commuter student made it difficult to get involved in campus social activities and establish friendships. But I liked being around the college atmosphere and the attractions of the city. Chief among those attractions for me were Seattle’s movie theaters. The UW has the fortune of being geographically proximal to Seattle’s numerous historic movie houses. For a film fan who grew up attending charmless suburban multiplexes, Seattle’s movie theaters were a revelation. It was within their walls were I found comfort and solace during that first difficult year of college.
So I was saddened to learn that the Harvard Exit, one of those historic theaters where I spent so much of my time that year, will be closing its doors January 13.
Located on Capitol Hill, the Harvard Exit was built in 1925 as a clubhouse for the Women’s Century Club. It was converted in 1969 to an art house movie theater. It is beloved for its charming lobby (which includes a fireplace and piano) and its ornate architecture in the theater’s interior.
I still remember the first film I saw there — Larry Clark’s “Kids”. Over the next few years the theater became not only a place of solace for me, but a place of work and inspiration. By my sophomore year I had saved up enough money to afford living in a dorm, which allowed me to become more involved in campus life. I got a job as a film critic at “The Daily“, UW’s daily newspaper. Within a few months I was the lead critic, which meant I got to cover the Seattle International Film Festival. The Harvard Exit was one of the main theaters on the SIFF circuit. It was there I met Julianne Moore. After the screening of his film “Lone Star”, I met John Sayles in the alley on the side of the building and had a conversation with him. I have no memory of what we spoke about, but his films were incredibly inspirational to me and ones that helped form the bedrock of my own filmmaking sensibilities.
If you are in the Seattle area or happen to be there in the next couple weeks, I encourage you to take in a film there before it’s gone forever. It will be well worth the effort.