By Tom Vandel
Hollywood Theatre board member
When the curtains at the Hollywood Theatre first parted on Saturday, July 17, 1926, the movie palace became an instant icon for the community. From that moment on, people began to call the surrounding neighborhood Hollywood. Droves of people arrived that opening day via Model T, streetcar, bike and foot. It was, by all accounts, a momentous occasion.
Today, the Hollywood Theatre is still a movie palace, but it’s become much more than that. The Theatre has earned a national reputation for its unique combination of award-winning programming, historic design, innovative educational programs and sponsorship of local filmmakers. The Hollywood offers a diverse range of entertainment for all ages, including classic films, documentaries, first-run movies, offbeat festivals, live comedy and more.
“Each year we screen nearly 300 of the best films from all over the world,” says Doug Whyte, Hollywood Theatre executive director. “We bring a lot of people to the Hollywood neighborhood to see films and events they can’t see anywhere else. We’re proud to be a cultural icon like the Theatre was almost a century ago. We’re really thankful for the community support.”
After years of neglect, this grand dame of a theater has now been renovated and modernized. Updates include a new marquee (based on the design of the original 1926 sign), new seats and sound system, new 50-foot screen in the main auditorium and refurbished original light fixtures. Plus, the Hollywood Theatre now serves beer, wine and pizza (served from Atomic Pizza through a “pie hole” in the wall).
“We’re always trying new things and improving the experience here,” says Whyte. “Like our interactive features such as B-Movie Bingo and Hecklevision, where viewers text comments that appear on screen. We’re a non-profit so it takes membership and support to keep the doors open.”
One of the Hollywood Theatre’s highlights for 2013 was presenting the Portland premiere of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which opened at the Hollywood on Christmas day. The movie will continue running in January. Many other diverse and interesting features are also appearing:
Members make it happen
More people are becoming members of the Hollywood Theatre, helping preserve history and at the same time pushing the envelope for what a theater can be. Which brings to mind an idea for an easy, fun New Year’s resolution: Come to the Hollywood Theatre more. Better yet, become a member and enjoy benefits that will arouse envy among all your friends.
The Hollywood Theatre is keeping the neighborhood’s heritage alive and venturing forward into uncharted territory. May the journey continue for generations to come. For information and show details, visit hollywoodtheatre.org.
January 9: Mississippi Records Music and Film, a new monthly series of films, live music, and lectures, kicks off with a Sun Ra double feature.
January 11-12: Cinema Classics series presents The Red Shoes.
January 5-26: Family Pictures presents The Iron Giant on the big auditorium screen.
January 27: Science on Screen featuring Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man.