Portland, Oregon’s Art Deco movie houses
Portland's Avalon shows second-run mainstream movies with a classic nickel arcade attached. (Katie Beck)
Portland is best known for its gourmet coffee, hand-crafted microbrews and laid back Pacific Northwest sensibility, and while it may not conjure glamorous images of vibrant Art Deco movie theaters, it should.
In the 1980s, when most cities were shuttering their old theatres to make room for shiny new multiplexes, Portland bucked the trend. Today many of the grand theatres built in the1920s are still standing. They have weathered VHS and DVD and seem steadfast in the face of streaming video, Netflix and Blu-Ray too.
The Rose City is home to a thriving culture of historic theatres offering cheap movies and good food. Going to a show in one of these grand historical establishments, with a beer in hand, is still cheaper than a night out at the local Cineplex. Whether it is the draw of seeing Hitchcock on the big screen for the first time, or paying $2.75 to watch Hot Tub Time Machine - again - these theatres manage to fill seats night after night.
Portlanders are spoiled for choice in this department, but here are the four best:
The Bagdad Theater and Pub
The Bagdad's bright neon marquee stands as an iconic Portland landmark in the heart of the trendy Hawthorne District. And the interior is just as arresting. The intricate wrought iron light fixtures, impressive vaulted ceiling and multicolored mosaic archways alone are well worth the modest $3 ticket price.
The balcony level has comfy couches, and tables accompany the rows of seating - making it easier to enjoy beers, pizza and much lauded tater tots while taking in a second-run movie, or watching a live band. A limited pub menu, including a variety of local brews, is offered inside the theatre while you watch a movie and during the twice daily happy hour.
The Bagdad is part of the prolific local McMenamins brewery chain, and attached is a pub with a prime people-watching patio in front and a bar with seven-foot ceilings, ornate chandeliers and pool tables hidden behind the screen.
The theatre was built by Universal Pictures in 1927 and at its grand opening it was heralded as "a triumph of artistry and craftsmanship". An evening here will bring you right back to that gilded age of movie going.
3702 SE Hawthorne Boulevard; /www.mcmenamins.com/219-bagdad-theater-pub-home
The Laurelhurst Theater
Situated in Portland's classy Laurelhurst neighborhood, this theatre, one of Portland's first Art Deco movie houses, has occupied its spot on North Burnside Street for nearly 90 years.
Its four screens showcase second-run, independent, art, foreign and classic films all under one roof and through its spectacular outside marquee.
The theatre has a full menu including a large selection of microbrews, pizzas and salads. And at $16 for a bottle of wine or $2.50 for a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, it satisfies the diversity of patrons who line up every day to take in a show. A ticket will set you back $3 and the theatre is 21and over after 3 pm.
2735 E Burnside Street; www.laurelhursttheater.com
The Hollywood Theater
Built in 1926, the Hollywood's grand 1,500 seat auditorium originally housed live Vaudeville shows and silent films. Now, just like in its storied past, the beautifully renovated Art Deco theatre still draws a crowd for independent films, tastefully selected second-run movies, cultural events and an annual local film festival.
The Hollywood, now run by a non-profit dedicated to film education and development, serves standard movie fare like sodas, candy and what is rumoured to be the best movie theatre popcorn in Portland.
When it opened, admission for a silent film accompanied by an eight-piece orchestra was just 25 cents. It has three screens now and is still a bargain at $7 (and only $5 on Mondays).
4122 NE Sandy Boulevard; www.hollywoodtheatre.org
The Avalon Theatre and Nickel Arcade
You will not find plush stadium seating or gourmet beer here but at $2.75 for a ticket and $4 for a large popcorn, this might be the best deal in town.
The Avalon shows second-run mainstream movies on three screens, and if you want a little more action after the show there is a classic nickel arcade attached to the theatre. Skee-ball, air hockey and pinball will bring you back to your childhood.
3451 SE Belmont Street; www.wunderlandgames.com/avalonnew.htm
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