While most American cities are cursed with soulless corporate multiplexes, Portland has a wealth of fantastic independent theaters that make our city an unexpected haven for cinephiles.
These days, any discussion of Portland’s film scene has to start with the nonprofit Hollywood Theatre (4122 NE Sandy)—built in 1926, it’s the reason the Hollywood District is named the Hollywood District. The theater’s seen a radical turnaround in the past few years, becoming one of the best, most unique theaters in the country thanks to rare screenings, special events, and addictive series. It’s also the only place for hundreds of miles where you can see a movie in 70mm.
You’ve got other great options: Portland’s premier arthouse, Cinema 21 (616 NW 21st) boasts a well-curated mix of domestic, foreign, and indie fare.
If you’re looking for first-run blockbusters, head to Southeast Portland, where you’ll find the Bagdad Theater (3702 SE Hawthorne). Still boasting its balcony and towering ceiling, it’s hands-down the best spot to catch big-budget movies on opening weekend.
All the theaters above offer beer and/or wine—but if you want the most liquid refreshment for your buck, save on ticket prices at the Laurelhurst Theater (2735 E Burnside) or the Academy Theater (7818 SE Stark), where admission’s $4. Both of these charming, low-key, and beloved-by-locals theaters offer a frequently rotating selection of solid second-run titles, along with a weekly repertory selection or two. And pizza. And pitchers.
And no visit to Portland is complete without a visit to video mecca Movie Madness (4320 SE Belmont). Home to more than 80,000 films, Movie Madness offers bizarre stuff Netflix hasn’t even heard of. This is the place to track down Werner Herzog’s short films or Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, but the real fun comes from browsing the genre-specific sections for weirder stuff (check out sections like “Male Chauvinist Fantasies/Nightmares,” “Rampaging Teenagers,” “Turkish Action Cinema,” and “Yahweh Is Angry”), or perusing the oddities in directors’ filmographies (in the shelves devoted to American auteurs, the works of Steven Soderbergh and Gus Van Sant sit inches from those of Tyler Perry). Movie Madness also boasts a museum’s worth of original movie costumes and props—a knife from Psycho, Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie and Clyde dress, and, hanging from a chain, one of those creepy Mugwumps from David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch.