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Beyond the MegaPlex: An Occasional Series -The Hollywood Theatre

I have never been one who toes the line or waits behind the yellow tape on the bus before exiting.  In fact, there’s a joke in my family about how I was so upset after my first day of kindergarten because the teachers made me sit on the taped floor so they could tell us stories and give us instructions.  Everyone posts movie reviews on their blogs (and I will eventually) but I thought it would be fun to post reviews of the actual theaters.

I live near Portland, Oregon which has a variety of independent movie theaters all with a different feel and level of sticky floor.  Over the next year, I am going to review all of the independent movie theaters in the area.  I’ll even include a few in the ‘burbs.   I’m not going to grade them because my B+  might be your C-.  Instead I will focus on the theater itself, the experience of attending a movie there, who goes there, the food, the prices and what to do after the show.

Even if you don’t live anywhere near Portland, I hope you enjoy my series and maybe seek out the independent theaters in your city.  You might be surprised.


Hollywood Theatre

4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd

Portland, OR 97212

(503) 281-4215

Tickets: $6.50 Adults, $4.50 Seniors and children under 12. Tickets are $4 on Monday nights.

Movies Played: First-run Independent films

Parking: What parking?

Fare: You are not here to eat!!!!  But the popcorn is decent

The Experience:

Unless you live in the neighborhood, going to a movie at the Hollywood Theatre is, as my mom would say, an experience.

The Hollywood theater is centrally located in Portland’s “Hollywood District” and is surrounded by shops, medical offices and a busy Trader Joe’s.  The website claims there is ample street parking, but I’ve never seen ample parking anywhere in the Hollywood District.  Take extra time to get here because it will take you at least 5 to 10 minutes to find a parking space.

The Theatre

Built in the early 1920’s the Hollywood Theater began as a vaudeville house and movie theater for the masses.  In the 1950’s the theater was transformed into a Cinerama theater offering ultra-wide screen films requiring two projection booths.  In the 1970’s the theater was partitioned into three separate auditoriums with 468 seats in the main auditoriums and 180 and 190 in the other two.

The outside marquis dazzles passersby with bright lights and an ornate façade.  The stucco walls behind the marquis do not match with the rest of the ornate décor but I guess that is part of the appeal.

In 1997, Film Action Oregon purchased the Hollywood Theatre and transformed it from a second-run theatre to the first-run independent theater it is now.  The theatre doesn’t just show movies, it also hosts a variety of events from theatrical performances, concerts, and fundraisers to big Academy Award Fundraisers.  Notoriously, it hosts the annual HP Lovecraft Film Festival.

It might sound like I don’t like the Hollywood Theatre, but I do.  I find the quirkiness of the theater to be endearing and the general feel of the place to be very, “Hey! You’re here for a movie! Not for pizza or beer or any of those new fangled movie attractions.”

This attitude is carried over into the movies themselves.   You’re not forced to watch a slide show promoting the local dentist or real estate agent or watch those sickly sweet 10 minute previews of the latest Hannah Montana concert.   Only two previews are shown before the movie, previews of the other currently playing at the theatre.  Music is played before the movies and has a theme.  During a retro-French movie I was watching the projector broke (twice!) and the music automatically came back on.  Bjork was singing about loss or sorrow or her swan dress.   When the movie got going again the projectionists forgot to turn Bjork off and the music continued to play under the movie.  The music actually fit with what was going on in the movie and everyone booed when it was turned off.

The seats are not comfortable and anyone who has mobility issues or is wider than a Barbie Doll might have to try one of the other independent theaters in town.    The smaller theaters have steep inclines and I don’t recommend getting up during the movie to pee – unless you sit in the back where it is flat.

I’ve been to many movies here including the screening of the 48-hour Film Project to retro French movies and everything in between.  If you’re up for an adventure, I highly recommend the Hollywood Theatre.

Who Comes Here?

All walks of life go to movies at the Hollywood Theatre. Movie lovers come here, your old Aunt Doris will come here for the French subtitled movies and your hipster friend Maude comes here for the art-house movies.  The Hollywood Theatre is not about bells and whistles and popcorn; it’s simply about good movies

What to do After the Show

The only good thing about circling the Hollywood District to find a parking spot is that you don’t have to leave the area for an after-movie nosh or drink.  There’s everything from brewpubs to wine bars to pizza to fine dining.

If you’re really hungry and feeling adventurous, I recommend walking down to Poor Richard’s Burgers and Steakhouse.  This restaurant is a classic throwback to the 1950’s (or 80’s depending on your age) when your grandparents took you out to dinner at a “nice place”.  The dark interior and wood paneled walls gives it a feel of the Rat Pack times and if Frank Sinatra ever came to Portland, this is where he would dine.

Meals at Poor Richard’s are served with salad (complete with Thousand Island dressing) soup and bread rolls. And that’s BEFORE the dinner. Dinners are HUGE and they offer 2- for-1 pricing.      Want some pie after dinner? There’s pie! And cake!  The coffee served at the end of your meal (or during depending on your age) makes you feel as though you’re living high.

If you’re not up for a big meal and schmaltz, try the Hollywood Burger Bar, a Portland institution for over 50 years. Or check out the Hollywood Wine & Espresso for a glass of wine and Panini or small plate of food.

End Credits

The Hollywood Theatre is not the most comfortable place and the popcorn won’t knock your socks off.  But sometimes it’s not all about the popcorn and the seats. At the Hollywood Theatre it is all about the movies.


About Anna Alexander

I get ideas. I write things. I sometimes follow through with those ideas. I also run long distances and live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband cat who lets us pay the mortgage on his house.

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