Tucked away on Concourse C at the Portland International Airport in Oregon in what used to be a rarely-used and almost forgotten post-security service center, sits the new bright and shiny Hollywood Theatre in miniature form. The new venue is a “microcinema” in partnership with the historic Hollywood Theatre located in Portland giving people yet another reason to enjoy more screen time.
The new theater looks stylish and stands out with its bright neon marquee beckoning weary travelers to come in. Though big enough to 49 people, there is only seating for 17 that sit in front of the large screen that is backed by the $200,000 state-of-the-art projection and sound system that hides the noises of the airport. But the best feature is that it is free to enter.
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This isn’t your usual movie house theater. Don’t expect to screenings of Airplane! Snakes on a Plane, Red Eye or any of the infamous Airport movies in the microcinema. Instead, the space is being used to showcase local filmmaker’s work on a continuous reel that runs for about an hour. You won’t have to worry about covering little one’s eyes as all of the content featured is rated “G” short films that will be rotated on a quarterly basis.
The Portland airport receives about 16 million visitors every year and now there is something else for them to do while waiting to make a connecting flight. “I’d say we have a blockbuster here,” Vince Granato, chief operating officer of the Port of Portland told USA Today this week.
“We want to make sure a passenger’s entire journey — from the roadway to the runway — is great.”
“And the airport theater isn’t just for travelers,” said Doug Whyte, executive director of the Hollywood Theater. “We expect many people who work at the airport to use it too.” The only downside is that the theater is located where only ticketed passengers are allowed to roam.
The current selection of films being shown at the microcinema includes a half dozen short films including an animated film, a music video, a documentary, and a collection of mini-short films created by local film students.
According to the OPB, Hollywood’s executive director, Doug Whyte has helped the historic nonprofit theater become one of the leading art house cinemas in the country. “We approached the airport, and funny enough they had actually been thinking it would be cool to have a movie theater,” he said. “It was kismet. We worked it out so it could go under their public art program.” The airports art program includes nine different art exhibits as well as live music events from time to time which helps to make the PDX airport one of the country’s best. “It can be a little bit stressful to travel, and one of the things we found helps soothe the travel stress: music, artwork, and now we’ll have a theater too,” said Kama Simonds, the airport spokesperson for the Port of Portland.
The original Hollywood Theatre began operating on July 17, 1926 with the silent film, More Pay, Less Work, and an 8-piece orchestra and organist. It became so popular, the Hollywood District chose its name from the venue. Today, the space continues its restoration and operates as a nonprofit movie house.
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However, while this is a clever idea, Portland did not come up with the idea first. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has its own “See 18” theater (located next to C-18) that also promotes local talent, but it seats 150 people, Lithuania’s Vilnius Airport has a free cinema hall that promotes their local filmmakers and Singapore Changi Airport has two movie theaters that show big name full-length movies for free.
[Featured Image by The Hollywood Theatre]