Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Portland - Vancouver Independent Theaters: Movies with a sense of community

Kiggins Theater on Main Street
in Vancouver, Washington

I haven't been a fan of huge theaters and mall multiplexes. I just don't fit in with the crowds pouring in to see the hyped-up expensive movies after circling the parking lot to find the closest spot. I don't like seeing popcorn priced at $8 and stepping on those sticky aisles after the kiddie matinee. So I gave up going... for many years.

Enter Kiggins Theater in downtown Vancouver, Washington. A movie ticket goes for $5.00. Popcorn can be had for a couple of bucks and, upstairs, you can purchase wine or beer. And Kiggins is all about community. You might find a community service group hosting a lecture or a fun and informative "Nerd Night" where science subjects are presented in an entertaining, interactive way. 

I feel comfortable there. Could it be that it reminds me of the small theaters of my childhood? Yes, it could. Kiggins Theater was originally opened in 1936. Could it be that Kiggins is a place where I'll probably run into friends who live downtown? Yes, it could. Could it be that they are friendly and laid back there? Yes. And, the theater feels clean, comfortable and safe.

The theater was remodeled and upgraded not so long ago. A Kickstarter campaign provided funding so the theater could show digital films. You'll see the old 35mm projector on display in the lobby. And, down the street, Willem's on Main uses some of the old seats to add a sense of nostalgia to their dining room.

Kiggins is only one of the Portland - Vancouver independent theaters. Neighborhood Notes published an excellent listing of Portland Independent Theaters. These range from the neighborhood historic theaters such as Kiggins in Vancouver to Living Room Theaters which are new, but offer the same intimate atmosphere as the historic theaters. The prices might be a little more but you'll often find gourmet food and a full bar. 

I've long been a fan of the McMenamins restaurants and pubs. They, too, have found a niche in the indie theater scene. At a McMenamins theater-pub you can watch a recent-run film with a pint in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. These are both stand-alone theaters and theaters located within a McMenamins building such as the Kennedy School.
Balboa Theater in San Francisco
Theater of my childhood.

These small independent theaters are not just for the artsy, wine-sipping set. They are also for children. Most offer matinees and special programs for children. Why not introduce your child to movie-going like it was for you. You'll save money and your child will experience the neighborhood feel of yesteryear.

Unless you try out your local independent theater, you may end up like I did... watching a few videos at home from time to time or movies on demand. You'll miss the sense of community that exists in your local theater and you'll miss spending an hour or two re-living the good times of your childhood.

Photography copyright: Elizabeth R. Rose

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