Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Grand Cinema seeks to buy the Tacoma building it calls home

A brick building with gold framed posters in the windows. An oval sign with "The Grand Cinema" sits above a black door.
Edward Coumou
The Grand Cinema
The Grand Cinema started more than 26 years ago and is the only nonprofit dedicated to film and film education in Pierce County.

The Grand Cinema announced a campaign to raise $5 million to buy the building it's called home for over 26 years.

The theater was founded in 1997 as a nonprofit dedicated to film and film education. Over the years, The Grand has hosted the Tacoma Film Festival, film camps for youth, public screenings outdoors, and more. Which they hope to do more of with the purchase of the Merlino Arts Center. Other tenants of the arts center, like the Tacoma City Ballet and Corina Bakery, expressed their support of the campaign.

"We're very excited to be partnering with all the different organizations in the building," Philip Cowan, The Grand's executive director said. "Most of them know about the plans and expressed great joy over that, because like us, through ownership, it kind of preserves our home for all of us."

Cowan said that besides securing a future home for The Grand Cinema, owning the building will give the organization a new source of income. They estimate that amount to be about $200,000-250,000 a year for them to spend.

"We will take that extra money and continue to reinvest it into the community," Cowan said. "It's kind of like setting up an endowment for us as an organization to give us a cash flow to those things."

The idea of buying the Merlino Arts Center is not new. Cowan said the nonprofit actually made an offer on the building when it was for sale in 2008. But then the market crashed and the deal fell apart. Ever since then, they've been saving money with the idea that they would eventually have another chance to purchase the building. And now that time has come.

Cowan said they are already over 50% of the way to their goal with the money they have in reserve. And that the seller of the building has given exclusive bidding rights to them until June 2025.

"We talked to banks just before we started this just to make sure that was a possibility if we needed it," Cowan said. "Hopefully we don't get to that point, we're very confident in being able to close the sale."

The Grand Cinema is more than just a theater for many. Cowan said it's been described to him as the "community's living room."

"We've had real estate agents tell us from time to time that people made decisions on moving to Tacoma, because one of their criteria was to have a good independent movie theater, and we provide that for people," Cowan said.

Cowan said buying the building will preserve the future of not just The Grand, but the other tenants in the building which enrich the Tacoma community.

Grace Madigan is KNKX's former Arts & Culture reporter. Her stories focused on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.