Get Your Popcorn Ready!

Push Play

The Community Planning Workshop’s (CPW) Oregon Historic Theatre Preservation Team have begun our initial stages in helping to build a framework for the revitalization of downtown historic theatres throughout the state of Oregon.

Historic theatres are not only an all-American pastime, they also boosts tourism and stimulates downtown economic activity within cities and towns. Our team will be taking advantage of our partnership with Oregon Main StreetPacific Power, and Travel Oregon that will enable us to gain expert insight in creating a lasting blueprint to increase economic vitality and boost tourism in downtowns all over the state.

Before our team conducted additional independent research, we first gathered and consolidated all previous research to eliminate redundancy and use our data efficiently. This involved pouring over theatre inventory spreadsheets, websites, and then double, or even triple checking all of our facts and figures.

Sounds like fun, right?

Craig Wiroll Community Planning Workshop CPW Oregon Historic Theatres RestorationWell, actually, it is! In addition to reviewing interesting facts, archived photographs, and even the occasional “epic story”, our team took to the streets of downtown Eugene to visit our very own McDonald Theatre. We received a one-of-a-kind in-depth look at the theatre; dressing rooms, projectionist booth, backstage, rafters, everywhere! Our tour guide, production manager, Jason Way, provided us with more information and theatre education than we originally thought possible.

McDonald Theatre is mainly a live music venue these days, but they do show the occasional movie every now and then for old times’ sake. It was built in 1925, and ownership is now in the hands of the Kit Kesey, nephew of world-renowned author Ken Kesey, who has owned it since 2009.

Hitting the Road

Craig Wiroll Community Planning Workshop CPW Oregon Historic Theatres RestorationInspired by our first trip, fellow teammate, Dana Nichols, and myself took an additional field trip to Alberta Rose Theatre located in Portland, Oregon. The building is remarkably similar to the McDonald Theatre; both have attached business storefronts, primarily to the left of the front entrance. The Alberta Rose Theatre was built 2 years after the McDonald Theatre and both are constructed in the same poured concrete style.

Although there are close to 100 historic theatres throughout Oregon, our team is going to do our best to visit as many of them as possible. As good as reviewing historic documentation, phoning theatre owners, scanning old newspapers, and polling community members is, nothing compares to visiting the theatre and feeling the aura elicited from the marquee.

Stay tuned in for more interesting updates about our research, findings, and field trips.


Craig Wiroll Community Planning Workshop CPW Oregon Historic Theatres RestorationAbout the Author: Craig Wiroll is a journalist and farmer-turned-Master of Public Administration student with high hopes of changing the world. For now, he’s just going to focus on the UO Campus. Craig is also a two-time AmeriCorps alum from Wisconsin, who enjoys public radio, hiking and food. Craig also works at the Student Sustainability Coalition and is the founding member of a UO volunteer/action group based around food issues.

7 comments on “Get Your Popcorn Ready!

  1. We have two historic theaters in The Dalles: The Dalles Civic Auditoirum’ Theatre and the Granada. Your project is exciting as we at The Dalles Civic begin fundraising to restore the Theatre. We could certainly use your assistance. The Granada stands empty and in desperate need of TLC. Two great historic facilities.

  2. Come and see our Elgin Opera House in North East Oregon. As the President of the Board for the Friends of the Elgin Opera House I invite you to attend our next production. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will open the first weekend in march and play through the 1st weekend in April. Purchase tickets on line at

    1. Thanks Kate! That sounds awesome! If we’re ever out your way, we’ll definitely stop by. We’ve got the Elgin Opera House on our list, and we’ll be sending you a needs assessment survey soon. It would be extremely beneficial to the project if you’d take the time to fill it out! Let me know if you have any questions. Email me at! Thanks!

  3. I think this effort is well needed to help struggling downtown areas. I also would encourage this effort to include downtown theaters that are currently closed, but could be salvaged. A key to the revitalization of Newport’s City Center could be the Ark, formerly know as the Newport Cinema. The building is the best example of the art deco period in downtown Newport. This venue has been closed for a number of years and was converted to a live theater. Many of the chairs were removed, but the basic theater layout remains. Is there some consideration to look at creating incentives to reopen some of the theaters that have closed? I am interested in your progress with this effort.

    1. Thanks for your note, Spencer. I agree; currently closed downtown theaters have huge potential. Another example I can think of off the top of my head is the Rivoli Theater on Main St. in Pendleton ( still a work in progress, but the energy is there. We certainly are considering these theaters as part of the project. If you’d like us to send you more information about our findings as the project progresses, you can add your name to our mailing list:, or email me directly:

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