Who Is Door Man?

A new cinema superhero is bringing some renegade spirit to the Academy Theater’s Revival Series.

When the Academy Theater pivoted to screening first-run movies one year ago, the reasoning was clear. Standing nearly alone as a second-run movie house in Portland wasn’t financially feasible in an era of ubiquitous streaming and shrunken theatrical windows.

Yet the more pressing question owner Heyward Stewart heard from regulars wasn’t about the new movies; it was when the Academy would resume playing older films. The answer? Soon and more than ever.

Since last June, the Academy has reestablished and accelerated its revival programming, now playing two to four titles a week, on a twice-daily basis. This March, the slate ranged from The Matrix (1999) to Lady Bird (2017) to Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), and the weeks ahead include both Shrek (2001) and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972).

“The revival films are really part of our identity,” says Jon Pape, an Academy film programmer who goes by the moniker “Door Man” and has helped spearhead this new-old direction.

Alongside blockbusters like Creed III and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the Montavilla neighborhood landmark is doubling down on classic and cult fare, joining Portland indie theaters like Cinemagic, Clinton Street and Cinema 21 in increasing its repertory screenings since reopening from pandemic closures.

Door Man’s journey to co-programming the theater’s Revival Series, including an ongoing monthly horror series, mirrors his mission to screen “the cult movies of tomorrow.” For one, Pape’s nickname has its roots in sharing movie recommendations (he’s also a carpenter who installs doors).

As a Chicago teenager in the late 2000s, Pape frequented a Hyde Park apartment building that doubled as an arts scene hangout. There, the building’s talkative, influential doorman turned him on to movies like Blow Out (1981) and Prayer of the Rollerboys (1990).

Door Man later brought the nickname to Portland, where he studied music composition at Reed College and began working at the Academy in 2014. Fittingly enough, it was the theater’s screening of Mad Max (1979) that inspired him to seek employment, and he spent many of the interim years “inundating” the former programmers with his repertory wish lists and bolstering his film education partially by following Dan Halsted’s programming at the Hollywood Theatre.

After the pandemic hiatus resulted in near-total staff turnover at the Academy, Pape, new general manager Hannah Miller and projectionist Chadwick Ferguson found themselves primed to start scheduling revival titles from their wheelhouses.

Currently, Miller has programmed a Studio Ghibli spotlight, Ferguson is spearheading a monthly international film series, and Door Man has spun his hardcore cinephilic tastes into a new series called Deep Cut, beginning March 24 with Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).

The post-Easy Rider highway odyssey stars singer-songwriter James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson as street racers drifting across the country. Then, from April 21 to 27, Deep Cut continues with Sorcerer (1977), the vicious demolition derby quest directed by William Friedkin and scored by Tangerine Dream.

“As cool as Portland’s indie theater scene is, movies like Two-Lane Blacktop and Sorcerer don’t get played, especially 14 times a week,” Door Man says. “When was the last time that ever happened for some of these movies?”

Before it’s even begun, Door Man hopes to delve deeper with his series. The May and June movies (TBA) won’t be the sort canonized in the Criterion Collection, he says.

Thus far, those Academy devotees once anxiously awaiting repertory titles’ return have shown up—sometimes in surprising ways. In the past year, relative curiosities like Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) and the Italian proto-slasher Torso (1973) have outperformed standbys like The Goonies (1985).

Door Man attributes those “upsets” to younger Portland audiences eager to dive into film history and reshape canons in the process. If giallo can become a household term among movie fans and boutique Blu ray labels keep releasing loving restorations, new cults can swell.

“I’m trying to do a new generational approach to re-raking through the coals of [movies] from World War II to 2000,” Door Man says.

Having celebrated its 75th birthday on March 11, the Academy finds itself moving forward in part by searching the past.

“[Door Man] is pulling out movies frankly I’ve never even heard of,” Stewart says. “I like the direction. As people start to realize that we’re digging pretty deep, they’ll keep an eye on what’s coming up.”

SEE IT: Door Man’s Deep Cut series plays at the Academy Theater, 7818 SE Stark St., 503-252-0500, academytheaterpdx.com. Starts Friday, March 24, with Two-Lane Blacktop. $6-$9.

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