The end of everything: The Harvard Exit takes its final bow

The last showing at Seattle
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Last show at the Harvard Exit

The last showing at Seattle

The Harvard Exit marquee read:The Theory of Everything.  Last Day January 8.”

Above it, film spooled through the V of its familiar logo. On Thursday, my favorite movie theater closed its tall green doors forever.

How appropriate that its final night fell on the 73rd birthday of Stephen Hawking, subject of The Theory of Everything. Hawking studies the farthest reaches of space, yet he can barely move a muscle due to the devastation of ALS. The Theory of Everything depicts his graduate years at Cambridge in the 1960s, the courtship of Jane, his first wife and, in the decades following their marriage, the struggle to raise a family as his health declines and career soars.

The Harvard Exit and I first met when I visited Seattle to interview for a job at the old Post- Intelligencer. I encountered the Exit’s leafy Capitol Hill neighborhood, with the Loveless Building across Roy Street, and immediately fell under its Tudor Revival spell.

As I reached for The Exit door’s brass handle, the theater sucked me into its gravitational field and has held me there ever since.

Stephen Hawking dedicated his life to discovering a single theory that explains everything in the Universe, including the possibility of time travel. I found all the answers I needed at The Exit. Ida showed me how a young Polish nun came to terms with her identity; Life Itself showed film critic Roger Ebert’s courage as he publicly battled a disfiguring disease; Oscar, the Grouch — in the person of his creator Caroll Spinney — signed dozens of autographs on the theater’s front steps, proving that even if you play a misanthrope, you can be extraordinarily kind. (Spinney was in town for the SIFF premiere of I Am Big Bird.)

But films were just half The Exit’s magic. Its parlor (below) had a grand piano and arched windows with velvet curtains and comfy chairs and puzzles and candle sconces and a fireplace that crackled daily and some of the finest popcorn in town. “So fresh,” read the chalked promise in the concession area, “you’ll want to slap it.”

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About the Authors & Contributors

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Laura Kaufman

Laura Kaufman, an award-winning journalist, is writing a book about First & Pike News.