After a One-Month Closure This Summer, Cinemagic Has Reopened With New Amenities and an Upgraded Sound System

“We’re trying to play toward our neighborhood crowd even stronger. The clientele’s taste…I would say they’re adventurous.”

CINEMAGIC BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Cinemagic got a makeover this summer, but the iconic gold drape remains. (Cinemagic)

Ryan Frakes was 16 when he started working at a movie theater owned by Chuck Nakvasil, the Scappoose Cinema 7. A few months later, he was a manager.

“If the kid wants to live here,” Frakes approximates his former boss’s voice, “we might as well keep him busy.”

The Oregon native started pitching in at Nakvasil’s other theaters, including the Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard single-screener that Frakes would buy 13 years later: Cinemagic. Frakes purchased Cinemagic on June 9, after an intermediary decade working at Regal Cinemas, AMC Theatres, Cinema 21 and another six-year stint at Cinemagic.

The new owner calls the chance to apply the best of his many theatrical experiences a “total fantasy,” and during a monthlong closure this summer, Frakes and co-owner Nicholas Kuechler replaced Cinemagic’s carpet and beer taps, refurbished its marquee and iconic gold auditorium curtain, and upgraded the theater’s audio to Dolby 7.1 Surround.

Still, anytime employees buy a beloved business from its longtime owner, a dance begins: How much to embrace tradition, how much to evolve? Kuechler, who’s managed Cinemagic for the past seven years, says it’s a more complex dance than most people even realize.

“Even the things I see as a broken problem,” he explains, “somewhere out there is someone who fi nds that to be an endearing characteristic of the theater.”

Case in point, four years before the theater’s sale, Cinemagic finally replaced its notoriously springy and overstuffed auditorium seats (good for ambience, bad for backs). Yet Kuechler was surprised to find that a small minority of filmgoers appreciated those seats, so when he helped yank out well over 200 chairs, the staff rebuilt the 60 least creaky ones that still pepper the auditorium today.

Knowing what Frakes and Kuechler want to keep is easier: the beer selection on 10 rotating taps, the almost pub-style neighborhood vibe, and a crowd of regulars so devoted they’ll show up for most any film.

“We’re trying to play toward our neighborhood crowd even stronger,” Frakes says. “The clientele’s taste…I would say they’re adventurous. They’re willing to try new movies, whether they’re really into movies or not.”

That likely means booking a combination of independent and mainstream films going forward (The Green Knight last month, the Candyman remake currently), with a few new programming wrinkles. Last week, alongside the new Oregon-set Nicolas Cage movie Pig, Cinemagic ran a pair of special double features: one half starring Cage and the other starring pigs. David Lynch’s Wild at Heart paired with Babe, and Mandy with Babe: Pig in the City.

Themed screenings are new territory for Cinemagic, but the response has nearly overwhelmed Kuechler and Frakes. During a soft opening this summer, Frakes programmed There Will Be Blood (his favorite fi lm), hoping to draw a few loyal Southeast Portlanders. That, and a John Carpenter double feature, sold out.

“They were supposed to be soft openings,” Frakes says, “but they were not soft at all.”

Kuechler observes that such rep screenings help him gauge Cinemagic’s core crowd. Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 epic may elicit hushed reverence in some cinephilic circles, but not among locals excited to watch a neo-classical favorite in their local movie haunt.

“[During] the fi nal scene in the bowling alley, the audience was viscerally and verbally reacting like they were watching a boxing match: gasping and cheering and laughing,” Kuechler says. “That one threw me.”

Kuechler anticipates curating more one-off screenings themed with regular releases, à la Pig even adding levity to a fall theatrical slate full of moody horror movies and dramas.

For now, repertory screenings are capped at 75% capacity, while standard screenings are limited to a self-imposed 50%. But Frakes is eyeing those autumn releases and dreaming of normalcy.

“I’m really just looking forward to having packed houses and sharing the moviegoing experience with every singlevperson.”

GO: Cinemagic, 2021 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 971-420-9350,

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