The Hollywood Theatre

Posted on November 20, 2019

5. The Hollywood Theatre 


Outside the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The History of the Hollywood Theatre

The Hollywood Theatre sits on beautiful 4122 NE Sandy Blvd in Portland, Oregon. The Theatre is one of the oldest remaining theatres in the United States! The Hollywood, built in 1927, experienced the end of the silent film era. After sound became common in motion pictures, the popularity of movie theaters skyrocketed. The Hollywood profited not only off of the combination of sound and moving pictures but also from its size. Being the biggest theatre around, searing over fifteen-hundred guests, only added to their success. The Hollywood also started one of the most important trends in movie theatre history– cushioned seating! Most movie theatres up until that point were shops that used a small screen and rows of metal chairs. They were stores first and foremost but sometimes used “movie nights” to draw in more customers. The Hollywood, and other theatres of its kind, are categorized as “Palace” theatres because they were built with the sole purpose of showing movies. Many movie “palaces” created architecture designed to give patrons the best movie experience possible. The architectural design firm of Herzog and Bennes constructed the entrance to the theatre with a detailed tower of terra cotta painted in a variety of colors. The exterior architecture, with its tall columns and terra cotta roof, would then grab the attention of potential customers for the Hollywood Theatre. Once inside, customers experience elaborate Spanish Colonial styles designed to give the customer the most luxurious movie-going experience possible. Soon after opening, other theatres began looking to the Hollywood for inspiration. Other notable theatres in this genre were the Liberty (1925), the Elsinore (1925), the Egyptian (1925), the Oriental (1927), and the Bagdad (1927). All of which included flashy art styled architecture from the Art Deco movement. Once the famous Egyptian tomb of Tutankhamen was discovered in 1922, it lead to more palace type theatres employing an Egyptian flair to their architecture. 


Interior
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1961, the Hollywood Theatre received another update that made it the only Cinerama theater in all of Oregon. Cinerama theaters used an ultra widescreen process that, when combined with new sound technology, gave the viewer a much more dynamic experience. In 1963, the ultra widescreen film process became obsolete but the Hollywood remained a Cinerama theater until late 1969. During this time, the Hollywood began showing the same movies for longer periods of time. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, for instance, was on screen for over ten months! The Hollywood changed hands and, in 1975, it became necessary to divide the theatre into three different auditoriums. An upstairs balcony, an upstairs theater, and a three-hundred and eighty-four seat main auditorium, which still exists today. This increased their profits because they could show more than one movie at a time. Throughout the 1980s,  this method became the new standard for not only the Hollywood but others of its genre. Unfortunately, as technology progressed, the Hollywood began to fall on hard times. In 1983, after the Hollywood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of the original film formats had become unusable. In 1997, the Film Action Oregon non-profit organization purchased the Hollywood. Their mission was to restore the theatre to its original glory. Chairs, screens, sound systems, concessions, and appliances received much needed upgrades. A Kickstarter campaign began in 2013 to raise much needed funds to upgrade a new marquee and restore 70mm film capabilities. After many years of restoration efforts, well into 2000s, the theatre is now completely functional again. The Hollywood is not only a historic movie house but a nonprofit organization that celebrates the art of film!


Exterior at night with neon sign illuminated (2011)
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

The Hollywood Theatre is Reborn

Currently, the Hollywood Theatre runs an incredibly broad range of classic, first run, educational, independent, and experimental films. Their main focus is on restoring public interest in classic films which are shot primarily on 35mm and 70mm. They do this mainly by offering unique games and events to the public. The Hollywood also advertises in the local area and offers discounts to local residents. The theatre draws in many celebrities who have contributed to the theatre over the years. Quentin Tarantino being the most famous of the celebrities but others include Joe Dante, Pam Grier, Piper Laurie, and Michael Ironside. All of which support the distinctive and historic theatres passion for classic film. In 2015, at the Portland International Airport, a new annex theater and extension of the Hollywood Theatre was opened. The theatre has a max occupancy of forty people, which includes standing room. The theatre will have live performances as well as twenty minute long movies. The Hollywood Theatre announced that it would also be free to airport patrons. 


Sep. 2013
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

In 2017, the Hollywood purchased a local business. Movie Madness, a popular video store, which had been failing. The movie store had become a popular destination for Portlanders and Hollywood decided to keep it alive for the community. Movie Madness carries a wide collection of over nine-thousand movies! The Hollywood is now the leading theatre for the indie, horror, and cult film finatics of Portland. While the majority of Portland’s historic theatres have fallen into disrepair, the Hollywood Theatre remains strong. In fact, since it’s restoration it has jumped well over fifty percent in attendance in recent years. This is due to the hard work of film enthusiasts Doug Whyte and Justen Harn who have bolstered the Hollywood to whole new heights! The Hollywood is a national landmark that, with the help of a supportive community, will be around for generations to come!


Image Source: Pexels Free to Use

 

The Ghosts of the Hollywood Theatre

Many ghosts love historical buildings and the Hollywood Theatre is no exception. Staff and customers alike describe feeling weird sensations throughout their bodies while inside the theatre. Paranormal investigators report seeing strange figures moving in and around the theatre. Funnel Ghosts, ghosts that create cold spots and sometimes appear in the form of a vortex, frequent the theatre. Paranormal investigators upon entering the theatre report feeling cold almost immediately. One investigator got the scare of her life after exiting the women’s bathroom. As she opened the door to exit, a swirling figure approached her and abruptly vanished! The woman reported feeling so cold after the incident that she had to leave the building. Other visitors report seeing swirling lights and orbs. According to experts, this is all evidence of “Funnel Ghosts.” Another more familiar type of ghost is often spotted at the theatre. Orbs are the most common type of ghost reported at the Hollywood Theatre. Customers report seeing the shiny balls of light whooshing by movie screens and at the concession counter. So far, there have been zero reports of malevolent spirits on the property. Staff feel confident that the Hollywood Theatre is home to the nicest ghosts around! Some lucky paranormal investigators were able to confirm this by talking with some of the ghosts. They did this by using a Spirit Box or “Ghost Box.” A Spirit Box is a device used by ghost adventurers and paranormal experts alike because of its dependability. One paranormal researcher caught the voice of a spirit named Toby, who had been at the Hollywood Theatre since it first opened in the 1920s. The researcher reported that during their conversation “Toby” took on an orb like shape that hovered over his Spirit Box. The researcher commented that “Toby” was a very friendly and well mannered ghost. Another tool in a paranormal investigators arsenal is the audio recorder which captures  EVP ( Electronic Voice Phenomena). This became the preferred way to communicate with the spirit named “Steve” who liked to hide out in the upstairs lobby area of the theatre. Investigators asked pointed questions in the lobby using the recorder and then played it back. Investigators reported that “Steve” worked at the Hollywood for most of his life until he became sick and passed away. “Steve” loved the theater and his job so much that, according to investigators, he couldn’t leave it even after death. Another ghost who chooses not to give her name is reportedly fond of smoking and pacing the halls of the theatre. According to researchers, the female spirit enjoys tapping customers and staff on the shoulder. When they turn around she vanishes and a girlish giggle can be heard going down the hallway. 

It seems that benevolent spirits haunt the Hollywood Theatre. Staff and customers alike enjoy the presence of the spirits and hope that they never leave. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it is clear that something spooky is going on at the Hollywood Theatre!

Works Cited

https://www.hauntedrooms.com/10-haunted-places-portland
https://hollywoodtheatre.org/about/mission-history/
https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/oregon/portland/haunted-places-portland/
https://www.oregonlive.com/history/2017/02/film_flashback_the_golden_age.html
https://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2013/7/1/the-new-hollywood-theatre-july-2013
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reportedly_haunted_locations_in_Oregon
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_District_(Portland,_Oregon)
https://oregonhistoryproject.org/articles/historical-records/hollywood-theatre-portland/#.Xc4CKTJKjVo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oj5uLX17s4U (Hollywood Theatre-Portland Oregon Ghost Investigation)