Did Portland really need another movie theater?
To be sure, Studio One Theaters (3945 SE Powell Blvd., 971-271-8142, studioonetheaters.com), which recently opened along a forgotten corner of Southeast Powell and César E. Chávez boulevards, represents a marked upgrade for a disused mini-mall still mourning Blockbuster's disappearance. The long-gestating passion project of Cinetopia founder Rudyard Coltman and his wife, Shelly, certainly believes itself to be a neighborhood-defining institution.
But didn't Portland pass Peak Cinema a dozen screens ago? What sort of moviegoers would change habits to spend more money for sake of a few gimmicks?
As it happens, the specific draw of Studio One announces itself from a glance at the retro-digitized marquee. Look past the typically dispiriting late-winter dreck and, one line below each film's title, in similarly sized font, you'll find a list of the seven designated screening rooms. Each is a pretend penthouse themed around six of the planet's more enviable urban centers—including New York, Paris and Rio, plus the more fanciful dreamscape titled "End of the Road"—with skyline and music to match.
Aided by custom seating that's more featherbed than recliner, Coltman's years of tinkering have instilled a definable personality within each auditorium-cum-bachelor pad. Tokyo trends minimalist, Rio embraces a technicolor flair, New York looks like an aspirational sports bar, while Portland has been replicated as a cineaste's study. Gazing about your new dream flat won't elevate the charms of Happy Death Day 2U, but two hours of perfectly accessorized wish fulfillment for $12—only $5 during weekend brunch—seems a relative bargain.
Truth be told, no matter how impressive Studio One's state-of-the-art sound and laser projection, movie-watching is no more central to the experience than any of the other amenities. That includes a dully tasteful restaurant space, serving a variety of far-flung slow-food staples, 50 wine varieties, local beers, and bowls of a sublime gourmet popcorn ($10, and worth twice that), and normcore music venue up front.
For better or worse, Studio One, has planted its flag squarely on the experience of stepping out. Only a few months after opening, it's drawing an eclectic flow of afterwork commuters catching the game, romcom couples grabbing a drink and post-collegiates out on the tamest of sprees. Most were only there to see a movie, sure, but the underlying tone echoed that barroom murmur of big plans, big dates and big possibilities. It's the theaters that got small.