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There’s a New Indie Movie Theater in This Airport

By Matt Villano

Apr 17, 2017

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Courtesy of The Hollywood Theatre

It may even have you praying for a delay.

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Instead of obsessively checking Facebook or mindlessly reading gossip magazines during your next layover at Portland International Airport, now there’s another option: catching up on short films at a small-but-awesome indie theater.

Hollywood Theatre PDX, a 17-seat outpost of the circa-1926 theater in Northeast Portland, opened recently in Concourse C and shows one hour of short films on repeat, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

 All of the films in the loop are from Oregon filmmakers. And they’re totally free. 

According to Doug Whyte, executive director of the big theater, the goals of the airport “microcinema” are to showcase local talent and to add some culture to the layover experience. Whyte got the idea for the outpost after reading about a similar theater at Hong Kong International Airport, where travelers can pay to see current feature-length films.

“We knew we’d have to do ours differently, so we decided to play up the local angle and make it free,” he said last week. “The hope is that people will flit in, watch a few short films, then flit out.” 

Whyte added it took almost four years to raise the $180,000 necessary to make the idea a reality.

Along the way, Whyte also managed to get local audiovisual companies to donate state-of-the-art sound and projection systems—technology valued at nearly $200,000 overall. With this technology, the experience of watching a film in the tiny PDX theater is just like seeing a movie in a traditional cinema. 

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The PDX theater opened in February and since then traffic has been steady; airport staffers report that especially on days with weather delays, there have been times when the theater has been standing-room only. Travelers are allowed to bring in food from elsewhere in the airport, and some have even have been spotted with popcorn from a nearby shop.

Whyte noted that the theater will air new films every quarter and said he’d replace the current reel with a new one sometime this June.

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