A true classic in every sense, the historic Hollywood Theatre is being renovated and even improved as the years reel on. If only the people who were here for the Theatre’s Prohibition-era silent film premiere in 1926 could see it now. Their jaws would drop (and so might their beer).
Fabulous new features:
- New 50-ft. screen in main auditorium
- New digital surround sound systems
- Renovated auditoriums with new seats, curtains and paint (and tables upstairs)
- Refurbished original light fixtures
- Cleaned and polished Terra Cotta facade
- New historic paint colors inside and outside
- Beer & wine for sale!
We are also pursuing more interactive and innovative programming such as our Sound + Vision series, Kung Fu Theater, and our partnership with Filmusik. Stay tuned and sign up for our e-newsletter for info on film screenings, special events and more.
The Hollywood Theatre is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to entertain, inspire, educate and connect the community through the art of film, while preserving a historic Portland landmark.
The 1920s were sensational times for the motion picture industry. Movie theatres were grand palaces of entertainment. Throngs of people came by streetcars and Model Ts to be enthralled by the latest big screen hit.
They came out in droves on Saturday, July 17, 1926. On that day, at 2:00 pm, the Hollywood Theatre opened its curtains for the first time, presenting More Pay – Less Work. It was a momentous occasion – for the city and for the neighborhood, which then became known as Hollywood.
When the 1,500-seat Hollywood Theatre first opened, a local advertisement called it a “palace of luxury, comfort and entertainment unsurpassed by any theatre on the Coast.” The Hollywood was the last venue in Portland built as both a vaudeville house and a movie theatre. Though sound was not fully introduced until 1927, there was plenty of lively sound in the place – provided by performers of all kinds, plus an eight-piece orchestra and organist.
Designed by Bennes & Herzog architects of Portland, the Hollywood is Spanish Colonial Revival in style. At the time, it was similar in style to some theatres, but different in its location. Most movie palaces were located in downtown areas. The Hollywood was built in an outer neighborhood on Sandy Blvd., with good streetcar and automobile access. It was a popular destination in Portland.
As decades rolled on, the Hollywood kept changing with the times. In the early 1960s the Theatre became the first Cinerama facility in the Pacific Northwest. The ultra-widescreen film format required the addition of two projection booths and a huge wrap-around screen.
In 1975, walls and projection booths were built to divide the Theatre’s balcony and create three separate auditorium spaces. The Theatre currently includes a 384-seat main auditorium (the original orchestra), a 114-seat venue (one-half of the original balcony), and a 111-seat venue (the other half of the original balcony). All three venues are capable of screening films.
Although attention was brought to the Theatre when it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, the Hollywood had become an old dame over the years. It had fallen on hard times and operated as a second-run discount movie house. Fortunately, the sad story took a turn in the late 1990s.
In 1997, the non-profit Film Action Oregon (FAO) acted to preserve an important part of Oregon’s cultural history and purchased the Hollywood Theatre. FAO realized the essential role the Theatre plays in the Northeast Portland community. They began to transform the neglected theatre into the local treasure it once was. In 2011, the non-profit dropped the name Film Action Oregon, and now is just known as the Hollywood Theatre. The name lives on and so does its legacy.
We’ve come a long way from silent films. 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 film programming, innovative educational programs (supported in part by the Oscar-winning studio LAIKA), and support and fiscal sponsorship for local filmmakers.
Each year we screen nearly 300 of the best films from all over the world. We also provide educational opportunities for over 500 young people and support multiple Oregon-based, independent film projects. The Theatre has been honored by both the Sundance Institute and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for contributions to the film community.
The Hollywood Theatre bears witness to the potential for film to change lives. It’s happening here every day, when the lights dim. May it continue for generations to come!