The light of a projector first hit the Hollywood Theatre's screen in 1926. Since then, this cinema has changed with the times—at various points serving as a Cinerama and a second-run discount movie house. After a near-closure and a nearly 15-year renovation, the building re-emerged as a non-profit, independent cinema. Today, Hollywood Theatre screens about 300 films a year, ranging from classic Hollywood and genre films to newer independent movies and quirky blockbusters.
The core of the theatre's programming, however, is its signature series. Programs such as Kung Fu Theater and Sound + Vision aim to restore classic films' spectacle to the silver screen. Outside the auditorium, Hollywood Theatre hosts educational workshops on topics such as animation, documentary filmmaking, and chiseling your own star onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the cinema's Spanish Colonial Revival building retains much of its historic charm. At the top of a curving staircase lies a lounge with plush antique furnishings and signage. Inside the main auditorium—the house's original orchestra level—films blaze to life on a 50-foot screen and a digital surround-sound system. On the theater's original balcony level, two smaller venues with just more than 110 seats provide a more intimate viewing experience.
Nestled beneath the luminous beacon of its old-timey marquee, the Clinton Street Theater cements its status as Portland?s oldest continuously running independent film house with a rotating slate of foreign films, documentaries, and cult classics. Weekly screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Repo: The Genetic Opera draw fervent cultists dressed as their favorite characters and boom-mic operators, complementing screenings of splattery horror flicks with thought-provoking opera from rising and renowned auteurs. The cylindrical glow from a whirring projector jets across the Clinton?s spacious theater, illumining arrivals from such directors as Sidney Lumet and Gus Van Sant, who is notorious for instructing his actors to break character midfilm to challenge texting film-goers to bare-knuckle brawls.
Cinema 21 may offer daily showings of new Hollywood and independent flicks, but it also tries to get patrons interacting more with movies, rather than simply coming to see a blockbuster and then leaving. It does this by following up screenings with Q&A sessions with major filmmakers, including Wim Wenders and Steven Soderbergh. The theater hosts fun sing-along screenings as well, which invite attendees to belt out the tunes of their favorite movie musicals. Cinema 21 even brings international work to American shores by participating in several film festivals throughout the year.