In 2017, the Hollywood Theatre ran a successful Kickstarter to take over Movie Madness, Portland's beloved video store. One of the campaign's stretch goals? Building a micro-theater inside the video store for movie screenings, private rentals, and educational programming.
The Kickstarter fell short of that additional goal, but the Hollywood vowed to build the screening room all the same. Movie Madness' screening room welcomed its first audiences yesterday, and the Mercury was there to check it out, from its laser projector to the framed posters for Rear Window, All About My Mother, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension on the walls.
The short version? Movie Madness has always been the best place to find a movie in Portland, but now that it has a micro-theater boasting gorgeous picture, bone-liquefying sound, and 18 comfy seats, it's also one of the best places to watch a movie in Portland.
Steve Colburn of Portland's Triad Speakers—who also helped put together the Hollywood's micro-theater at the Portland International Airport—was on hand to show off the set-up, which he estimates would cost you or me over $100,000 to have at home. Due to the nature of the project—and the Hollywood being a nonprofit—nearly all of the equipment was donated, from an immersive 7.4.4 Atmos speaker package from Triad (that's seven speakers spaced around the theater's four walls, plus four subwoofers and four overhead speakers), to a roughly 10-foot-wide Stewart Filmscreen acoustic screen, to a Barco Medea 5500-lumen 4K laser projector. There's also a processor from Marantz, a slew of acoustic panels, and some mega-powered amplifiers. (“We have about a zillion watts, I believe,” joked Colburn.)
It's all set up to show DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, and VHS. There's also the capability to show media via streaming or a hard drive, along with 16mm film projection. About the only thing missing is a LaserDisc player—though when that came up, Colburn and several Movie Madness employees quickly started plotting possibilities.
(VHS, said Doug Whyte, the Hollywood's executive director, was put in "much to the chagrin of the installer. I don't think he's done one of those in a long time.")
A chunk of THX 1138 on VHS—the video upscaled, via all that tech, to emulate a higher resolution—looked surprisingly decent when piped through the system, but the real show-off pieces were, naturally, the sizzle-reel clips that companies like Triad use to sell and demonstrate their high-end home theaters. The opening of Mad Max: Fury Road, a WWII dogfight from Unbroken, and the wildfire battle sequence from Game of Thrones all showed off a level of crystal-clear picture and astonishingly complex sound that surpasses a number of Portland's actual movie theaters.
"Does it show anything besides violence?" asked an old lady in the front row, following sequences of Max Rockatansky chowing down on a two-headed lizard, bullets ripping through WWII aircraft, and Stannis Baratheon's hopes for the crown exploding in acid-green flames. It will, with Whyte noting that the Hollywood and Movie Madness already have some programming lined up—including some films, like Dunkirk, picked to show off the new screening room's capabilities, a Sunset Boulevard screening hosted by Movie Madness founder Mike Clark, and a Video Nasty series programmed by Queer Horror's Anthony Hudson. Starting in 2020, the Hollywood and Movie Madness will also use the screening room as HQ for educational programs focusing on different aspects of film history.
Hollywood Theatre members can also rent out the screening room, with three-hour blocks going for $300—which sounds like a whole lot if you're the only one paying for a movie screening for you and 17 of your deadbeat friends. But if everybody chips in, it comes out to a decidedly more reasonable $16 per. That's a lot cheaper than $100,000.