Last November, when the Roseway Theater reopened after 20 months, Portland’s film exhibitors could breathe a collective sigh of relief—every local theater had survived the pandemic closure. For his part, Roseway owner Greg Wood was in no rush.
“I was joking to myself that we’ll be the last to open,” he says. “I wanted to see business going through theaters first.”
As a single-screen, first-run operation, the Northeast Sandy Boulevard venue also needed studios to generate hits. Spider-Man: No Way Home helped; now Wood is banking on Uncharted and The Batman.
Meanwhile, independents like Cinemagic, the Academy and Clinton Street dabble enthusiastically in regular repertory screenings. Clinton owner Lani Jo Leigh says pandemic isolation has enhanced the appeal of arthouse titles that wouldn’t draw audiences before, leading to a February slate featuring French director Robert Bresson’s works and international Black History Month films. Moreover, many studios have waived guarantee fees on rep screenings, making smaller crowds more tenable.
“I really believe in social distancing, so I’m showing stuff not a lot of people come to,” Leigh jokes.
From Cully to Southeast, theaters can again offer vastly different cinematic experiences any night of the week. Leigh says community support has taught her not to fear the worst.
“People aren’t going to let us fail.”
See all 25 Reasons to Love Portland here!