By mid-July, there had been no rain for 39 days, but, at the Hollywood Theatre, an overnight cloudburst forced enough water through cracked ceilings and walls to make a floor mat outside the east exit door squish underfoot. That same morning, July 13, the Theatre got a little bit noisier, but film sound tracks weren’t the source of the din. A major restoration to repair and preserve the façade and roof of the historic 89-year-old theatre began.
Theatre Executive Director Doug Whyte and Kristy Conrad, development & marketing director, pointed out some of the more sorely hit parts of the structure built in 1926 by Portland architects Bennes & Herzog at 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd. The Hollywood Theatre originally staged vaudeville acts and was a silent-movie palace. The Spanish Colonial Revival-style edifice became such a popular destination and city landmark, that residents and visitors began to call the surrounding neighborhood the Hollywood District.
Through decades of multiple ownership, the Theatre remained an important cultural site. Many of Portland’s most famous residents, including Ken Kesey (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and Matt Groening (The Simpsons) went to the movies there, but the Theatre saw hard times by 1983, when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Film Action Oregon (the nonprofit organization now known simply as the Hollywood Theatre) bought the building in 1997. Since then, the 501(c)(3)’s mission has been to restore the Theatre to its full glory. Installation of a new marquee replicating the 1926 original preceded the current construction along with installation of new, comfortable theater seats and technology improvements, including DCP, 70mm and new sound systems. The main roof was replaced in 2006.
Those were projects Whyte characterized as “sexy,” but he told the Hollywood Star News, “This restoration project is work that has been needed before the Theatre went non-profit.” Conrad and Whyte pointed out vegetation growing from the façade above the marquee and indicated where water had stained the wall under the overhang. “The ticket booth window to the west of the front door also leaks when it rains,” added Conrad. Whyte said he doubted private ownership could bear the $2.2-million annual fiscal burden of operating such a historic landmark.
Continuing through the summer, work by D&R Masonry and Anderson Roofing of Portland will include in-depth cleaning and restoration of the Theatre’s façade, re-tiling of the Theatre’s period clay roof and water leak repair throughout the building. Conrad and Whyte lauded Theatre contributors to the $265,000 restoration, for one of the Theatre’s largest projects yet: the Kinsman Foundation, Jackson Foundation, Pacific Power Foundation, ESCO Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation Community Grant Program and Collins Foundation.
“These grants and donations complement ongoing support of the Hollywood Theatre’s board of directors, members, and donors. The Hollywood Theatre now has 1,500 members, double what we had last year,” said Whyte. He noted that three new staffers would be added to assist with the Theatre’s education program in Grant High and Open Meadow Middle schools. In all, the Theatre employs 15 and relies on the volunteer time of a couple of hundred volunteers.
More project information is available at www.hollywoodtheatre.org/facade-roof-restoration.