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Another Portland Blog

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

 

Building a Better Burg # 1: More Midnight Movies

Because this blog should really be more of a repository for unsolicited advice, here's a new series of blog posts about random ways I think Portland could better itself. Yup.


A few weeks ago I was drinking a Fog Cutter at Thatch and found myself talking with someone who completed his undergraduate work in Raleigh, North Carolina. He relocated to Portland a few years ago and, while he prefers it out here, he misses a weekly tradition at the Rialto, an old Raleigh movie palace he once frequented. Every Friday the management would host a midnight movie, usually a classic blockbuster released between 1975 and 1995, but wouldn't reveal which one until an hour before midnight. They paid a bouncer to guard a poster hidden beneath a curtain out front. At 11, the curtain was removed and the title of the movie was revealed.

The tradition, which may have since become a thing of the past, was supposedly incredibly popular for years and drunken crowds would line up hours ahead of time to secure seats, despite not knowing what they were in for. Highlights during his time in Raleigh included Back to the Future, Jaws and Repo Man.

This got us both to thinking and lamenting the lack of midnight movies around Portland. Sure, they're out there but the options are limited. The Clinton Street Theater still hosts The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday and Regal occasionally screens new potential blockbusters on rare Thursday nights. The closest thing to the Rialto's Friday night tradition is the monthly late-night offerings at the Baghdad hosted by KUFO. A colleague and I made the mistake of arriving only 30 minutes before the start time of March's The Princess Bride screening. According to an employee working the door, the show was oversold and people had begun sitting in the aisles.

Given the fact that this town is chock full of 20 and 30-something hipsters who love a good nostalgia trip, it's a damn shame KUFO's monthly movie isn't a weekly thing, especially given the popularity. A few years ago, I went to their screening of The Big Lebowski and people were lined up for blocks down Hawthorne, some of them dressed up as characters from the movie.

But midnight movies need not only cater to people looking to relive childhood and college memories while blitzed. There's untold potential for late night screenings of new and old cult movies and it's too bad that Cinema 21 won't/can't jump on something like that (Spike and Mike's annual animation festival notwithstanding). If the movie programmer for McMenamins pub theaters were more adventurous and had the budget, they could debut highly anticipated movies instead of their usual slate of leftover Hollywood films already out on DVD (there's no reason why they should still be showing Juno and There Will Be Blood). The Baghdad is the city's premiere movie palace. If I had to choose between watching Iron Man there or at the Mission or in a suburban cinemaplex stuffed full of high school brats, I'd much rather opt for for a theater that sells microbrews.

The audiences are out there. It's a shame more late-night movies aren't.

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