Light a Fire 2017: Inspiring Creativity

With Airport Cinema, Hollywood Theatre Gives Oregon Filmmakers a Global Audience

Up next? The nonprofit is buying Movie Madness.

By Margaret Seiler October 16, 2017 Published in the November 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Make a short movie, five or 10 minutes long. Throw it online. Maybe it goes viral and the studios come knocking. Or, more likely, only you, your mom, and her book club see it. Maybe there’s a way to get your work in front of 500 people a day, from all over the world, every day for three months straight, in an actual darkened theater with state-of-the-art equipment. For free.

Too good to be true? This is exactly what Hollywood @ PDX has done for Oregon filmmakers since February. The cozy 17-seat microcinema on Concourse C invites the airport’s 16 million annual visitors to catch a film or two (or 10, say, if a flight’s delayed). Programming rotates quarterly, from animation and music videos to documentaries and narrative films. The only requirements for the films: they have been made by an Oregonian and be essentially G-rated.

“No guns, no smoking, no drinking,” says Hollywood Theatre executive director Doug Whyte, noting that some people are starting to make films with that in mind. “I’m afraid of inspiring too many G-rated films,” he jokes.

So far, the airport screenings have generated buzz for local filmmakers, putting their films in front of around 45,000 sets of eyeballs. Each quarterly program also has a screening at the original Hollywood, the 1926 movie palace on NE Sandy Boulevard. At the nonprofit’s mothership, box office bottom lines have never been the main goal. Recurring series like Queer Horror and Cinema Classics share marquee space with visiting filmmakers and fun interactive events. Big draws like The Hateful Eight (that film’s auteur, Quentin Tarantino, showed up to a screening last December) and Dunkirk in 70 mm help pay the bills. That leaves screen time for “things that can draw a crowd for one night but can’t necessarily sustain a weeklong run,” according to head film programmer Dan Halsted, who’s worked at the theater since 2003 (and whose personal film collection often appears in the Hollywood’s Grindhouse and Kung Fu Theatre series).

The Hollywood was already an only-in-Portland gem. Now its airport mini-me can claim its own standout status: only-at-PDX.

The Hollywood launched a Kickstarter campaign this fall for its next big project: buying Movie Madness when its owner retires. The move will save the landmark video store and keep its legendary collection intact.
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