Before you even see the line, you can smell the popcorn.
At first glance, one might assume Jeff Martin, owner of Joy Cinema in Tigard, is defying the statewide ban of large gatherings and running a bootleg movie house in plain sight. Why else would a half-dozen patrons be queued up if not to catch one of the oddball B films the theater is known for screening?
Watch the scene for more than a moment, though, and you'll notice people rotating quickly through the theater's entrance on Highway 99W—coming in empty-handed, and reemerging with armfuls of bagged popcorn, candy and, occasionally, a full growler of beer.
In truth, the Joy's screen has been dark for months now. But one aspect of the weekend movie night ritual survives: the purchase of fatty, salty and sweet concessions, likely to fuel a Netflix bender at home.
"Sales have been very good. They've been better than they would for just a day of movies—more popcorn than that!" Martin says with a laugh. "I said to my wife, 'Why are we even showing movies?'"
Until the Joy can get back its primary purpose—although Washington County has been approved to reopen June 1, movie theaters remain closed—its front-of-house operations will have to do.
"It's not a very original idea on our part," Martin says of selling snacks to go, which he started in late April after seeing other local theaters having success with it, "but it seemed like a great idea somebody else had, so we're happy to jump on it."
So far, it's proving to be a good gamble. On a recent Friday, the procession of customers, separated by sidewalk chalk markings while queued up out front, never slowed. Most left with what looked like an entire Lord of the Rings marathon's worth of large $5 sacks of fluffy, golden kernels. One man ordered with the fervor of a kid in a candy store for the first time, requesting four bags of popcorn, two sodas, one of each flavor of Charleston Chew, Reese's Pieces and a Twix. Perhaps realizing the size of his purchase, he announced there were six children waiting for the haul at home.
Even though Martin couldn't provide the actual entertainment, he's happy to supply them with that evening's sugar high.
"For us, as a business, it reminds me just how great our guests are and how much they mean to us," he says. "They don't just mean a lot to us financially—they're friends of the business, too."
PICKUP: Joy Cinema, 11959 SW Pacific Highway, 971-245-6467, thejoycinema.com. 5-7 pm Friday-Saturday. Cash only.
Other Portland-Area Theaters Selling Concessions to Go
4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-493-1128, hollywoodtheatre.org.
What's available: Popcorn, beer and cider from Double Mountain, Narragansett tallboys and six-packs, soda, candy, movie posters. Also, four-packs of one large tub of popcorn, two boxes of candy, and a choice of beer, wine or champagne for $20.
How to get it: Order through the website for contactless pickup at an available time.
St. Johns Twin Cinema
8704 N Lombard St., 503-286-1768, stjohnscinema.com.
What's available: Pizza and "movie kits" containing a jumbo popcorn, two large sodas or "adult beverages," and two candies for $20.
How to get it: Open for walk-ups 4-8 pm Friday-Sunday.