On Seattle’s Eastside, less than a mile south of Microsoft’s headquarters, a private climbing club is adding a third chamber that will bring its total floor area to about 43,000 s.f. The place was full to overflowing on a recent cold, dark and wet weeknight. Meanwhile, just 300 feet due north in the same mall, almost no one was going in or out of the Regal Cinemas, which has almost exactly the same floor area, and close to the same building heights.
Climbing has boomed in popularity since the 2018 documentary “Free Solo”, which profiles Alex Honnold’s rope-free ascent of the world’s most famous rock- El Capitan. In contrast, U.S. movie tickets sales are now down about 40% from their real dollar peak in 2002. If you’re a theater owner wondering what to do with dinosaur real estate, the right new use may have just come along.