Like bookshops and coffee shops, Oregon’s independent movie theaters are the fabric of our neighborhoods — the places we go for comfort, community and a short escape from reality. All year-round, they’re great spots for a good dose of film therapy — guaranteed to lift your spirits and bring a much-needed laugh or cry. So grab your favorite movie buddy and consider supporting these indie theaters the next time you settle in for some screen time.
Hollywood Theatre first opened its doors in Portland in 1926, built as both a vaudeville house and a movie theater, and has been a Portland landmark ever since. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and the theater brought back 70-millimeter projection in 2015. Other spectacular theaters include Cinema 21, The Clinton Street Theater, Columbia Theatre and Portland’s St. Johns Twin Cinema.
With its Italian Gothic vaulted wood ceilings, antique copper lamps, locally crafted glass sconces and stained-glass windows, Bijou Art Cinemas in downtown Eugene has been a mainstay in the city’s cultural scene since 1980. It’s been the city’s go-to spot for top-rated independent, foreign and classic films, active in the local community including students, area businesses and nonprofits, and fellow film nerds. You can purchase movies to stream at home to support the Bijou as well as Broadway Metro theater in Eugene — which makes life extra sweet with popcorn and beer delivery to your home.
Other notables include Darkside Cinema in Corvallis, Albany Pix Theatre, Canby Cinema 8 and Salem Cinema. If you want to go old-school, load up the car for an old-fashioned drive-in movie night at 99W Drive-In in Newberg.
The Liberty Theatre in Astoria opened in 1925 as a symbol of rebirth following the Astoria fire of 1922. It features an Italian Renaissance architectural style and, inside, showcases paintings depicting Venice canal scenes. The theater is the primary occupant of the Astor Building, and in 1984 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Other coastal theaters worth visiting include City Lights Cinemas in Florence and Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City.
Each spring more than 7,000 film lovers pack into the Varsity Theatre, the historic Ashland Armory and other venues for the five-day Ashland Independent Film Festival. The lineup includes more than 100 documentary, feature and short films, complete with filmmaker and celebrity appearances and conversations designed to celebrate the diversity of human experience through film. In the Oregon Outback, Lakeview’s Alger Theater, a 1940 art-deco landmark, hosts regular events.
The Granada 3 Theatre in La Grande is one of many in Oregon that have marked their centennial anniversary. Founded in 1927, it’s undergone several major renovations, preserving its historical charm and beauty while adopting modern technologies and amenities. Nearby, head over to La Grande Drive-In for a drive-in experience open to 21 cars. In Milton-Freewater, families can also pile into the car to catch a movie at M-F Drive-In Theater Friday through Sunday nights, or Baker City’s Eltrym Theater.
Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge
Sandy Cinema has kept locals happy with its 800 stadium-style seats and eight screens showing first-run films. It’s been a gathering place for pizza and good times, marked by its bronze sculptures of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley by acclaimed sculptor Jim Demetro. Other esteemed film venues include Mt. Hood Theatre in Gresham and Sunshine Mill in The Dalles, which hosts a drive-in theater space in its parking lot on summer weekends.
The boutique Tin Pan Theater in Bend may be tiny at just 28 seats, but that’s what makes it special. The red leather seats, red velvet curtain and small bar offer an intimate experience for everything from art films to spaghetti westerns and Oscar watch parties. The nonprofit arts organization that owns Tin Pan Theater, BendFilm, keeps an excellent roundup of music- and art-related movies called Film Pharmacy to uplift and inspire.