The Reel Portland

We’re spoiled in Portland, Oregon – we get to watch movies while enjoying local microbrews and freshly-made pizza. Yes, in the movie! Picture a row of seats, then a row of tables on which to place the treats. To increase the pride, many films have been shot in and around Portland, including “Extraordinary Measures,” “Body of Evidence,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “Untraceable,” “The Hunted” and the first “Twilight” movie. Filmmaker Gus Van Sant, who lives in Portland, has made several of his movies here, including “Drugstore Cowboy,” “My Own Private Idaho,” “Paranoid Park” and the upcoming “Restless,” starring Henry Hopper and Mia Wasikowska (produced by Ron Howard, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Brian Grazier). Animated favorite “Coraline” was created in the Portland metro area. Also, many scenes in the television program “Leverage” were filmed in Portland, although it’s said to be Boston.

Portland hosts numerous film festivals each year, including the Portland International Film Festival, the Beer and Movie Fest, the Reel Music Film Festival, and the Portland Women’s Film Festival.

Portland is also a fabulous place to learn to be a filmmaker. Courses are presented through Portland Art Museum’s NW Film Center (, NW Documentary (, and the historic Hollywood Theater.

Here are some great venues in Portland to enjoy films:

Living Room Theater (341 SW 10th Ave.) combines movie watching with a full bar and café. Meals that are served (made fresh in their on-site kitchen) include pizza, panini, salads, cured meats, tapas, sushi and sliders. Movie snacks include popcorn, candy and ice cream, as well as locally-made vegan truffles. To drink, there are 10 Oregon microbrews on tap, as well as wine, champagne, port, cocktails, and barista drinks. Any of these tasties can be purchased at the bar, and taken inside the cinema to enjoy while watching the movie. Each screening room includes unbelievably large seats (think airline first-class) paired up for coupled seating, with extra-large arm-rest/cup holders between each pair. Ottomans are also available for putting your feet up, as well as small tables for all the treats you brought from the bar. 3 of the 6 theaters are 3-D equipped. The cinema is also a perfect site for hosting corporate events (

McMenamins Theater-Pubs: The McMenamin brothers have created a gigantic cluster of breweries, movie theaters, concert halls, wineries, pubs, restaurants, hotels, golf courses, event spaces and day spas throughout the Pacific Northwest. It’s hard to describe the enormity – and delightful eccentricity – of this vast empire of attractions. Curiouser and curiouser: McMenamins venues have been created at the site of what were originally schools, mental health facilities, and even a mortuary! There are 8 McMenamins “theater-pubs” in the Pacific Northwest; 3 are within Portland city limits (each theater also hosts other events, such as sports broadcasts, TV shows, the Academy Awards, lectures, and literary premieres).  The Bagdad Theater (3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.), on bohemian Hawthorne Boulevard, is surrounded by fantastic shopping and dining. The Kennedy School (5736 N.E. 33rd Ave.) is a charming hotel created from an elementary school, boasting 5 bars, 1 restaurant/brewery, a movie theater/concert venue and (drum roll!!) a jumbo soaking pool. Don’t get caught in the Detention Room (actually, do – it’s an adorably tiny pub)! Finally, The Mission Theater (1624 N.W. Glisan St.) is a two-level theater/concert venue, which recently featured free viewings of the new IFC program “Portlandia.” At all theater-pubs, enjoy a famous McMenamins microbrew and a burger or slice of pizza in the theater (

The historic Academy Theater (7818 S.E. Stark St.) offers babysitting in their “Play Loft,” so parents can enjoy a movie without having to worry about their kids. You can munch and imbibe at this theater as well – pizza, popcorn, hot dogs and ice cream are served, as well as healthier options like fresh fruit, salad, sushi and organic juices (also beer and wine). The Academy Theater offers birthday packages for adults or children (

The Hollywood Theater (4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd.) is not only a comfortable vintage theater with comestibles to enjoy during the show, it is also the home of “Film Action Oregon (FAO),” a live-action and animated film school. Over 2,000 young people every year benefit from the courses, and over 60 documentaries have been created on-site, with topics ranging from stereotyping to juvenile incarceration to youth homelessness. In addition, The Hollywood Theater was a location featured in the 2005 film “Bigger Than The Sky” starring Amy Smart and Sean Astin, although it was said to be a live theater venue in the movie (

Cinema 21 (616 N.W. 21st Ave.) is in Portland’s trendy Nob Hill neighborhood and virtually across the street from the “Drugstore Cowboy” site – though it’s no longer a drug store. Cinema 21 is the place to enjoy Sing-A-Long “Grease,” “Mary Poppins” and other musical gems, as well as independent films and documentaries (

The Laurelhurst Theater (2735 E. Burnside St.)  presents blockbusters, indies, foreign films, films by local film-makers, and cult faves. Throughout 2011, the Laurelhurst will feature a monthly theme (in March its Sci-Fi, in April, Action flicks), and each week they will show a cult classic, such as “Gremlins,” “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” and  Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” (

The Clinton Street Theater (2522 S.E. Clinton St.) is the place to watch “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on a Saturday night – come dressed up and ready to participate! The theater also features indie films, documentaries, film-making lectures and a live comedy act entitled “Comedy is O.K.” (

Merlin Varaday Written by:

Merlin Varaday was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised in Ashland, Oregon – home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – and has spent the last ten years in infamous “keep it weird” Portland, Oregon. With a B.A. in Tourism Marketing from Portland State University, Merlin’s day job is to answer questions for visitors to Portland and tell them about everything awesome in the grey-skied City of Bridges. Additionally, Merlin has contributed to the writing, editing, and layout of the Old Town Chinatown Crier ( Currently working on a blog about Living the Good Life on the Cheap in Portland (web location to be announced shortly), Merlin’s immediate plans are to stay in her hometown and write about all that the quirky metro has to offer. Which is a lot: leading developments in sustainability, an award-winning transit system, eccentric annual traditions like the Santacon, and culinary anomalies such as Voodoo Doughnuts. Because of this, Merlin considers herself a “stay-put writer” (as apposed to a travel writer). “Maybe sometime soon I’ll get to travel some place fantastic,” she says, “and then I will be a travel writer. For now, Portland offers a tremendous amount of material.”