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. While movie theaters are closed temporarily due to mandatory stay-at-home orders, you can still get your dose of film therapy by ordering a streaming movie and popcorn from many of Oregon’s beloved theater institutions to help them stay afloat until they’re able to reopen their doors.
Many are showing new flicks like the made-in-Oregon movie “Phoenix, Oregon” and “Spaceship Earth” — guaranteed to lift your spirits and bring a much-needed laugh or cry. Some offer drive-thru, for a nostalgic experience that also works great for social distancing. So grab your local takeout and cozy blanket, 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. During COVID-19, you can purchase exclusive movies to stream at home to support the Hollywood as well as Cinema 21 and The Clinton Street Theater. Columbia Theatre in St. Helens sells popcorn to enjoy at home, and Portland’s St. Johns Twin Cinema goes all-out with its movie-night concessions kit offered on weekends — with popcorn, candy, sodas, beer and wine to go. The theater also sells its pizza to go, so movie night is complete.
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.
In Corvallis Darkside Cinema is selling COVID-themed T-shirts as an add-on to its exclusive streaming movies. Albany Pix Theatre sold popcorn kits for “May the 4th” that were a huge hit, so watch for more events. Canby Cinema 8 offers fun Mystery Movie Night combos that include a DVD, popcorn and more. And Salem Cinema has introduced its Popcorn Fridays, with an extra-large popcorn, cookies, candy, ice cream bars and more. And just in time for Memorial Day weekend, 99W Drive-In in Newberg is reopening for a limited number of each weekend. Reservations open the Monday evening before the weekend; find info here.
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. These days Liberty’s virtual cinema lets you stream a handful of acclaimed films from home, while keeping the Liberty’s lights on for your return. Other coastal theaters with exclusive movies to stream at home include City Lights Cinemas in Florence and Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City, which also sells hot, fresh popcorn to go every night.
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. This year the virtual festival (May 22, 2020-June 14, 2020) showcases many short films that are free to the public, in addition to longer feature films for a small subscription fee. Lakeview’s Alger Theater, a 1940 art-deco landmark, regularly hosts curbside pickups of favorite movie concessions.
The Granada 3 Theatre in La Grande is one of many in Oregon nearing its 100th anniversary. Founded in 1927, it’s undergone several major renovations, preserving its historical charm and beauty while adopting modern technologies and amenities. During its temporary closure, locals may order popcorn to go for stay-at-home movie nights on Fridays and Saturdays, or 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. It’s open to 100 cars, with social-distancing measures enforced.
Baker City’s Eltrym Theater is offering concessions to go on Friday and Saturday evenings, with the hope of reopening for screenings in time for the theater’s 80th anniversary on June 27.
Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge
A welcome addition to the community of Sandy in 2002, 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. Today the theater hosts drive-up concessions — popcorn, cookies, candy and soft drinks — for stay-at-home movie nights on Fridays and Saturdays. In Gresham Mt. Hood Theatre is selling to-go movie packs with popcorn buckets, mystery posters and gift cards for future visits. You can also purchase virtual tickets to watch “Phoenix, Oregon,” filmed entirely in Klamath Falls and featured at the 2019 Ashland Film Festival. The comedy features friends who quit their jobs to open a bowling alley-pizzeria in a small town. If you live near The Dalles, you’re in luck, as Sunshine Mill winery has opened a drive-in in its parking lot, with general-audience movies on Fridays and family-friendly films on Saturdays. Guests must stay in their cars but may order wine to take home and hot pizza from nearby Freebridge Brewing to be delivered to their car.
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. Tin Pan is now featuring a lineup of virtual films to watch at home, with 50% of proceeds going to support the theater. The lineup features intriguing documentaries including “Spaceship Earth,” “The Booksellers” and more, and the experience comes with a free online presentation and Q&A with BendFilm Festival experts. Speaking of BendFilm (the nonprofit arts organization that owns Tin Pan Theater), check out its Film Pharmacy for an excellent roundup of music- and art-related movies to uplift and inspire.