Hollywood Theatre at PDX

Portland’s award-winning airport now offers free film screenings to ticketed passengers.

_74A8020This Hollywood Theatre outpost plays free short films for PDX travelers.
Ashley Anderson

You don’t have to stop soaking up Portland’s creative culture just because you have a plane to catch. At Portland International Airport (PDX) rated No. 1 in the country by Travel + Leisure readers for six consecutive years — visitors can view art installations, shop for locally made souvenirs (tax-free), hear live music and sample local street food. And, as of February 2017, you can visit Hollywood Theatre in Concourse C to watch short films by Northwest filmmakers.

The 17-seat micro-cinema is an annex of the historic Hollywood Theatre, a majestic landmark on Portland’s Northeast Sandy Boulevard. A longtime favorite of local film buffs, the Hollywood started out in 1926 as a silent movie theater. It went on to feature 70 mm films and became Oregon’s only Cinerama theater in 1961. (Film was projected onto a large curved screen from three synchronized 35 mm projectors.)

For the last two decades, the Hollywood has operated as a nonprofit cinema, with ongoing restoration efforts. These include a new 50-foot (15 m) screen and digital surround sound systems. Their programming showcases classic and contemporary films, live performances and film series like Kung Fu Theater, Hecklevision and B-Movie Bingo. In 2015, to the delight of die-hard movie fans, the theater brought 70 mm films back to Portland. Director Quentin Tarantino visited the Hollywood for a screening of his “The Hateful Eight,” the first film shot in 70 mm in since 1966.

The Hollywood’s PDX cinema is open to ticketed passengers 24/7, free of charge. It’s one of just two airport theaters in the country (the other is a screening room at Minneapolis-St. Paul). Stop by to watch made-in-Oregon cinematic shorts including documentaries, fiction, animation and music videos. Its 10-film inaugural program included Finding Oregon, a compilation of time-lapse photography and No More, a music video featuring Portland hip hop artist Mic Capes. The films rotate quarterly.

The theater doesn’t require tickets or sell concessions; letting viewers simply relax and enjoy a pre-flight show. In addition to its 17 seats, the space has standing room for up to 20 people.

Like many of Portland’s innovative ventures, creating the film venue at PDX was a collaborative effort. The project was dreamed up by Hollywood Theatre executive director Doug Whyte and former staff member Justen Harn. Their inspiration came from an article the two read about a Hong Kong airport theater. Local companies contributed the sound system, projector and neon marquee. The space was donated by Port of Portland, with funding provided by the Oregon Community Foundation, the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Oregon Arts Commission and Travel Portland (hey, that’s us!). The result is a cinematic experience that mixes state-of-the-art technology with vintage film decor.

If your typical approach to air travel includes rushing to your gate before it closes, PDX’s Hollywood Theatre might be your catalyst to change. Arrive early, cruise through security and take a seat at the cinema — your Portland immersion continues until boarding time.

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