If this same article on historic movie theaters in Portland was written a mere 20 years ago, it would have been a completely different piece. Many smaller theaters thriving at the dawn of the 1990s have been closed, converted or simply bulldozed. With the proliferation of mega-mall theaters, these family-owned theaters, like many small, mom-and-pop shops, are dropping like flies, replaced by corporate-owned theaters.

In Portland, we’re lucky to have a solid core of neighborhood theaters that cater to families, film buffs, beer drinkers and the occasional moviegoer. Many, once beyond disrepair, screening porn or used as nameless storefronts, have risen from near-death and have even helped spark the revitalization of neighborhoods. Historical preservation, beer, pizza, indy films and air-conditioning in the summer? That’s a win-win. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite theaters to grab a cold one, get out of the heat and enjoy a film.


Laurelhurst Theater

Laurelhurst Theater independent movie theater
Laurelhurst Theater in Kerns


The Laurelhurst owners have managed to keep the cool, indy vibe to the theater while adding more comfortable space and more screens, meaning you get to choose from a healthy mix of, say, a recent-run flick, '40s noir, '70s slasher or kid’s movie—all on the same day if you wish.

Drinks:
Beer on tap, wine, soda, water
Food: Pizza and snacks
Focus: The ginormous, beautiful, jaw-dropping neon sign.

Laurelhurst Theater, 2735 East Burnside, 503.232.5511


Bagdad Theater & Pub

The Bagdad Theater independent movie theater
Bagdad Theater & Pub in Richmond


Do you remember the first time you took a sip of a cold beer in a movie theater (no, that can of smuggled in, lukewarm Milwaukee’s Best doesn’t count) and thought “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” Wonderful Middle East-inspired architecture inside and out, the Bagdad was built in the 1920s by Universal, is run by the McMenamin empire, shows mostly films but also hosts events such as Ignite Portland and author readings.

Drinks:
McMenamin’s beer (duh) on tap, wine, soda, water
Food: Pizza, snacks
Focus: Purportedly haunted by numerous ghosts from different eras.

Bagdad Theater & Pub, 3702 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, 503.236.9234


Cinema 21

Cinema 21 independent movie theater
Cinema 21 in Northwest District


I will never forget the stunned silence of a packed house when the end credits rolled for The Battle of Algiers when it screened at Cinema 21 a few years ago. Showcasing a healthy selection of independent, foreign, classics and repeated screenings of cult-favorite, The Room, Cinema 21 last year began selling beer and wine on premise. Parking has always been a pain but apparently there’s a parking structure nearby at 2222 NW Kearney.

Drinks:
Beer on tap, wine, soda, water
Food: Standard, popcorn, candy
Focus: Originally called the State Theater in the 1920s when it was built, its sign boasts a small—but very charming—neon display.

Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Avenue, 503.223.4515


Academy Theater

Academy Theater independent movie theater
Academy Theater in Montavilla


The story is familiar: theater gets built, gets remodeled, stops showing films, turns into a grindhouse, then gets leveled. The Academy Theater, built in the late 1940s, has gone through a wonderful metamorphosis since falling into disrepair while avoiding the wrecking ball. And not only does it show films, it has helped grow a community. And this being Portland, the theater offers babysitting while parents can nosh on pizza and sip a beer. Top THAT, Regal.

Drinks:
Beer on tap, wine, water, soda
Food: Flying Pie Pizza, healthy alternatives such as fruit, salads and sushi
Focus: The renovation painstakingly re-created the metallic two-story dome and 1940s-style round lobby.

Academy Theater, 7818 SE Stark Street, 503.252.0500


Roseway Theater

Roseway Theater independent movie theater
Roseway Theater


Like the Academy, the Roseway had seen better days until it was completely renovated a couple years ago. Built in 1925 with seating for 600, and like many theaters after the advent of TV, it had its space reduced and was on a slow downward spiral of its life. It has been lovingly restored, its wonderful neon rose on the marque is a neighborhood highlight, and it still has that cool vintage feel but the new space also offers digital picture and sound system, letting the theater screen movies in 3D.

Drinks:
water, soda, Stumptown coffee
Food: Standard, popcorn, candy
Focus: Clayton “The Lone Ranger” Moore (ask your parents) celebrated his 71st birthday at the Roseway in 1985.

Roseway Theater, 7229 NE Sandy Boulevard, 503.282.2898


Hollywood Theatre

Hollywood Theatre


Probably the most well-known and ornate theaters in Portland, and thanks to the unrelenting efforts of owners and volunteers, the old palace has managed to turn the corner, stay in shape and keep running. Built in 1926, and according to the Oregon Historical Society, designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the Hollywood was at the time it was built, one of the largest theaters in Oregon. Showcasing independent films as well as local filmmakers, the theater also hosts events such as the annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. It’s more than a movie theater, it’s a living historical monument as well as filmmaker incubator.

Drinks:
Soda, water
Food: Standard, popcorn, candy
Focus: Was once the exclusive Oregon home of Cinerama, a popular 1950s widescreen process.

Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Boulevard, 503.281.4215


Moreland Theater

Moreland Theater
Moreland Theater in Sellwood-Moreland


This is another gem of a theater that has managed to stay intact, keep the original name and continue to screen first-run flicks. The theater featured live acts in the '20s when it opened then switched to movies and hasn’t looked back. The ownership is wonderful and the place has a legit small-town vibe to it. Proof? One evening we bought tickets for a later show, grabbed a beer at a nearby bar, lost our tickets, came back, but were admitted anyway—since the employee who sold us the tickets remembered us. The interiors have a Moroccan-meets-Craftsman look and the seats and room are comfortable.

Drinks:
Soda, water
Food: Standard, popcorn, candy
Focus: Once housed an organ to accompany silent films and acts.

Moreland Theater, 6712 SE Milwaukie Avenue, 503.236.5257


Cinemagic

Cinemagic independent movie theater Cinemagic in Buckman


This micro theater tucked between a couple of businesses on Hawthorne is easy to miss if you drive—or even bike—by it every day. But at night, Cinemagic puts on quite the neon show with a magnificent sign. Built in the teens, making it one of the older surviving theaters in Portland, Cinemagic has gone through many name changes through the years. It also has the reputation as having the most uncomfortable seats in town. Still, prices are cheap, the movies are usually almost first run and if you live nearby you can always quench your thirst at a couple of nearby bars.

Drinks:
Soda, water
Food: Standard, popcorn, candy
Focus: A great vantage point to admire the neon sign at night is across the street on a little concrete island next to the vintage shop.

Cinemagic, 2021 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, 503.231.7919

View the slideshow for images of the Bagdad Theater & Pub and Roseway Theater interiors, or visit our Flickr gallery:

Photos © 2010, 2009 Neighborhood Notes, unless otherwise noted.