The store, open since 1977, is known for its vast collection of film literature and the welcoming spirit of its owner, Stephanie Ogle.
In the 31 years that Cinema Books has been tucked underneath the Seven Gables Theatre in Northeast Seattle, it has drawn a few famous actors and many film buffs.
The store’s history stretches back even longer — to the late 70s, when it opened a few miles away the same year that “Star Wars: A New Hope” premiered in theaters.
But now it’s about to go dark, with fans lamenting the departure of owner Stephanie Ogle as much as her vast collection of books, posters and other movie memorabilia.
“It’s a big loss for the legacy of film culture in Seattle,” said Chris Day of the Northwest Film Forum. “The knowledge that (Ogle) keeps with her is probably something that should be mined further, to be honest.”
For 38 years, Ogle has shared a love of movies with her customers, freely offering her knowledge with customers, and learning from those who love cinema like she does.
“The store reminds me of those tents in the cartoons,” said Eric Ames, a professor of comparative literature, cinema and media at the University of Washington. “The tent looks tiny, and then you go inside and there’s this whole world that opens up to you inside of it.”
Ogle says she can’t keep the shop open with too-few customers, which she attributes to the construction of a six-story residential building across the street.
“I don’t have the financial resources to hold over many months of having a declining customer base,” she said. “I know much bigger firms that would have much bigger financial means to handle that. But when you’re a small independent bookstore, it’s much harder to do that.”
Step into Ogle’s store and you’ll find rare and best-selling books stacked wall to wall.
Ogle explains her classification system: Books on history and film criticism on the left of the south wall, books on directors in the middle, books on television and animation on the right. In the smaller backroom, the walls are crowded with biographies and movie posters.
“I ask her where a book is, and she knows exactly where the book is,” said Ames. “The store is like a mental map.”
The wall behind Ogle’s desk is covered with autographed photos of stars of film’s past and present. Most of them are gifts, and they’re not for sale.
The store has attracted all sorts of customers, from actors Colin Firth and Jean-Paul Belmondo to film scholars like Ames. Ogle taught film history at the UW during the late 1990s.
Then there were the movie fanatics, people who have seen every Godzilla or time-travel movie, and spent hours talking with Ogle about the industry.
The film business was bubbling with creativity back when Ogle, her brother and her sister-in-law opened the store in 1977 on Capitol Hill, next to the now-closed Harvard Exit Theatre.
That was also in the early years of the Seattle International Film Festival, now regarded as one of the more prominent film festivals in the country. Ogle said she used to sell tickets to the films that the festival featured each day.
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Ogle took full control of the store after her co-founders decided to travel.
She moved the store to its current location in 1984, at the recommendation of Seven Gables Theatres founder Randy Finley.
Over time, Cinema Books gained a reputation as a local resource for anyone interested in film.
The store hit its peak during the startup frenzy of 1990s Seattle, Ogle said, a time when Internet shopping was not a common practice.
“Most of those guys were very visual too,” she said of those startup employees. “So they were looking at picture books, animation books, art-of-film books, and that’s what inspired many of them.”
Throughout her years running the store, Ogle has made it a point to expand people’s knowledge of movies, and her welcoming personality is a rarity in a world often associated with arrogance and pretentiousness.
“She really does it because she is passionate about it,” said Joel Fisher, operations manager for the Scarecrow Video store up the street.
Ogle, who has lived in Seattle since the 1950s, agrees that her biggest joy is sharing her passion with others.
“I’ve gotten to know things about movies and subjects that I never would’ve found on my own,” she said.
Ogle says she isn’t thinking much about what she’ll do after the store closes. Instead, she’s focused on selling as many of the remaining books as possible.
“I think many of these books should have a really good home,” she said.
Big bargains through mid-July
Cinema Books, at 4753 Roosevelt Way N.E. in Seattle, has no exact closing date, but owner Stephanie Ogle says it will be sometime in mid-July. In the meantime, all items in the store are 75 percent off.