Oregon Historic Theaters: Highlights and Lost Footage

One nice pleasure from researching Oregon theaters has been reading the popular success stories. As we continue to move forward with understanding the results of our theaters’ needs assessment, we wish to highlight some of our findings. Here, we take a look at two theaters that have sustained operations and one theater forever lost.

Liberty Theatre, Astoria
Oregon Historic Theaters John Jackson Rodney Bohner CPW Community Planning WorkshopThe Liberty Theatre located in Astoria, OR is a place that is very dear to the people that live there. The theater offers a self-guided tour through its complex, and is considered a treasure my many. Built in 1925, the building housed a stage, Movie Theater, radio station, dance studio, and roughly two-dozen businesses. The Liberty quickly became a hub of entertainment for the area. It contributed to the community economically, culturally, and socially. Currently the Liberty stage is home to a number of events. These include the Astoria Performance Arts classical and operatic presentations, town hall meetings, and different national forums. The community has spent a lot of time in the past 10 years renovating and restoring the theater. It’s something they are proud of, as the theater is part of the town’s history and identity.

Majestic Theater, Corvallis
The Majestic Theater is a well known theater in the southern Willamette Valley region. Located in Corvallis, OR and opening in 1913, the theater has served the area as a movie theater for over a century. The interior of the theater is something to be marveled. Inclusive with 800 chairs in leather upholstery, mirrors, tiled entrances, three double doors in front, and an exit on each side the theater is fully loaded with everything a historic theater needs to be a success The towns Gazette-Times wrote an entire article on the grand opening of the theater and gave the theater a great review and promising endorsement. By offering live theater and live music, the theater keeps busy by offering over 200 events per year. Being one of the oldest theaters in the state, the movie theater has remained loyal its customers and continues to serve the community of Corvallis and the surrounding area.

Oriental Theater, Portland
Oregon Historic Theaters John Jackson Rodney Bohner CPW Community Planning WorkshopThe Oriental Theater, which existed in Portland, OR from 1927 through 1970, is an example of a lost cinema treasure. Due to lack of operational revenue, the theater was closed, demolished, and remains to this day as a parking lot. The theater’s life is captured in a vintage documentary available on YouTube. The short and somewhat obscure video (1,272 views at press time) tells the story of the fantastic theater. “Before the Dark: Portland’s Oriental Theater” takes us back among the revelry of New Year’s Eve 1928, when the theater opened its doors for the first time. As the name suggests, the theater displays elements from the Far East including life-sized elephant busts protruding from the walls. These and other sculpted plaster decorations maintained an exotic excitement. The loss of this gem is a reminder to the care required to preserve these architectural icons.

Link to video about the Oriental Theater: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oZ88y4i9BY

As we prepare recommendations and solutions to the difficulties facing historic theaters, it is important to examine both gains and losses. The Liberty and Majestic demonstrate the possibilities and diversifying theaters’ business model. In the case of the Oriental, the demolition demonstrates a break in the downtown fabric and the loss of an icon. Moving forward, our team hopes to identify paths to saving these threatened structures.


John Jackson Oregon Historic Theatres Community Planning Workshop CPWAbout the Authors: John Jackson is a Midwesterner turned West Coaster and a first year Community and Regional Planning Masters student at the University of Oregon. Growing up both in Chicago, Illinois and Lincoln, Nebraska, Jackson is an avid geographer who has taken his talents to the Pacific Northwest to study the craft of urban planning and the unique ways of land use, built environment, and transportation that U of O has to offer. In his spare time, he enjoys drumming, playing basketball, and working out at the campus recreation center. He is an active member of U of O LiveMove.


Rodney Bohner CPW Community Planning Workshop Oregon Historic TheatresRodney Bohner is a concurrent Master’s student in Community and Regional Planning as well as Historic Preservation at the University of Oregon. Originally from Pennsylvania, Rodney has worked on cultural resource projects in the Keystone state as well as Colorado, West Virginia, and Massachusetts.


Photo Credits
Google, Inc. (2014). Retrieved from Google Maps: www.google.com/maps
Krefft, B. Oriental Theatre. Retrieved from Cinema Treasures: www.cinematreasures.org/theaters/2728
Speer, D. (2013). Liberating the Liberty: Honoring the Liberty Theatre of Astoria, Oregon and Other Historic NW Theatres. Critical Dance. Retrieved from Critical Dance: www.criticaldance.org

Works Cited
Greiff, C. (Ed.). (1972). Lost America: From the Mississippi to the Pacific. Providence: Pyne Press

Cascades West: A Vision

The Cascades West Region boasts a varied economy with an inherent resilience that comes from its diversified industries. But what makes the Cascades West Economic Development District so special, so unique?

Is it the educational opportunities provided by two outstanding Research Universities and three Community Colleges? The Marine Research?

Is it the Marine industries? Is it Micro/Nano & Semiconductor innovators?

Is it the varied geography and the people? Is it the agricultural wealth of the Willamette Valley? The vineyards in the hills?

It is a combination of all these and more.

It’s also a vibrant lifestyle surrounded by some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Here are just a few of the beauties to be found in the Cascades West Region.

Video directed and created by: Dianna Cotter Skelly, Community Service Center, Community Planning Workshop, University of Oregon, Cascades West Economic Development District, Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

Team: Amanda D’Souza, Project Manager, Fabio De Andrade, Kelsey Klezvor, Blake Helm, and Dianna C. Skelly.

Cascades West Economic Development District Dianna Skelly-Cotter Community Planning Workshop CPWAbout the Author: Dianna Skelly is a non-traditional graduate student seeking a Masters in Community and Regional Planning following her undergraduate degree in Emergency and Disaster Management and Certificate in Homeland Security from American Military University. She is a proud mother of two children, and she has lived in Oregon for most of her 45 years. Her hobbies include voraciously reading books of all kinds, yoga, and spending time with loved ones.