Historic Theaters Workshops a Success!

Theaters make magic happen. Our childhood memories are filled with buttery popcorn, first dates, and stolen kisses lit by the glow of the silver screen. Experiencing art and culture, feeling the power of architecture, and meeting family and neighbors for a special night out, are all ways we interact with theaters.

Restore Oregon, along with several partners, is in the midst of a multi-year initiative working with Oregon’s historic theaters to revive, restore, and reinvigorate these cultural gems across our great state. The University of Oregon began this project in 2015 with an intensive survey of historic theaters in the Beaver state, eliciting responses from profitable fully restored theaters to dozens of barely surviving theaters.

Beginning in June, Restore Oregon hosted full-day Historic Theaters Workshops in La Grande, Medford, and Portland. These workshops attracted over 70 participants representing 20 different live performance and movie theaters in 19 different cities across the state.

At each workshop participants were provided an electronic version of our just-released Preservation Toolkit. Our Preservation Toolkit is an outstanding resource for anyone undertaking a rehabilitation or preservation project, outlining steps and methods required for a successful project and includes hands-on planning documents usually unavailable without a consultant.

Historic theaters are vital businesses in downtown districts across Oregon. The National Trust for Historic Preservation states that each dollar spent on a theater ticket is tripled in the local economy. Bureaucrats call this Economic Development, but I think Alfred Hitchcock explains it best by saying, “A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theater admission, and the cost of the babysitter were worth it.” Clearly, theaters have major impacts in their local communities.

Historic Theaters often serve as the anchor tenant in the original shopping centers, the main street of each town. Investing in theaters is investing in the entire main street economy. One of our host theaters, The Academy in Portland, provides a perfect case study for neighborhood revitalization being sparked by an old theater reopening their doors. Read more about Montavilla’s transformation here.

Each workshop included a tour of a local theater. Participants were thrilled to see the Art Moderne architecture of the Academy Theater, the Liberty Theater’s Classical Revival design, and the stunning Venetian Revival interior of the Holly Theater. Thank you to the stewards of all of these amazing places for allowing us to show off your efforts!

Randy McKay, Executive Director of Jefferson Live! which manages the Holly Theatre in Medford noted that “It was fun to hear others’ perspectives and get to be involved in the discussions.  And I’m SO thankful that you’ve tackled the historic theater need in Oregon.”

Special thanks to our partners: Oregon Film, Travel Oregon, The Oregon Cultural Trust, Pacific Power, Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, and the University of Oregon.

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Statewide Partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation