The theater in my neighborhood closed in 1956 and I miss it. It’s been gone for almost 60 years but I wish I could go back in time and see movies there. I was looking for a theater nearby, a place I could go almost every week that’s easy to get to. Second run movies fit the bill when trying to get to movies that much. I don’t want to pay astronomical prices and I can wait a few months to see most movies. It’s also nice to just be able to go to see what’s playing with expectations low, rather than think about having to see a particular movie. I’m lucky that I’m not picky. In the end the closest theater, my go to theater, was the one I found in the middle of a truck stop.
Back in the golden age…
When I moved to Portland I looked over listings and advertisements for movies and scouted out theaters. A listing for the Portlander Inn and Marketplace came up. Not sure what it was other than knowing there was a theater there, I took a bike ride out to the address listed on Vancouver Ave that was tucked away in the Delta Park area. I’m not sure how people get to it from the interstate but with its large hotel and separate gas pumps and truck area, it doesn’t have the traditional truck stop feel to me. The original attraction was second run movies at a budget price. It was three dollars then, but has since gone up to 5 dollars after the theater went digital. If you get a loyalty card you get a dollar off every ticket you buy.
I call the Portlander Inn and Marketplace hotline on most Fridays to see what the new movie is. My life is nothing if not routine. Often my wife, Ronna, and I find ourselves hitting the 6:45pm show on a Saturday night. They rotate movies every week. The first week it screens at 6:45pm the following week at 9:30pm with matinée shows as well. I’d find myself falling asleep at later screenings so we usually catch 6:45pm shows. The Willamette Week highlighted the whole truck stop from the shoe repair place to Moe’s Deli. With Jubitz on the local media radar it seemed like a good time to tell the tales of the truck stop cinema.
We’ve had our share of weird experiences at the truck stop. The theater allows for an opportunity to eavesdrop on truck drivers as they chat before the movie starts. The high cost of fuel, trucking industry boon and bane times, and trucking routes are all things I’ve heard about. Things got surreal the night we were sitting in the theater watching a semi-truck roll over in a movie starring the Rock. Art imitated life. Comments from truckers debunk scenes especially those involving high-speed car stunts. They know engines and mechanical aspects of vehicles and are willing to share their thoughts. Ronna theorizes that it seems natural for truckers to make comments out loud because of their use CB radios.
Inside the theater lobby
The theater has had it’s share of technical snafus especially with the 35mm equipment. In the early days of our attendance there was some set up involved. Someone from concessions would have to go to the projector booth, start the projector, fix the focus and adjust the image to the screen. Sometimes the projector would start and stop which seemed fitting for the budget admission. For one screening the projector never got on track. There was a flicking effect that was unwatchable. We made an effort but after 10 minutes it was determined that the projector was broken and we lined up to get our money back. On another night the adjustment of the film to the screen resulted in us seeing us things that were not intended to be seen. The audience was able to see the production microphones in all the shots. While this technical aspect of the film was educational it happened during a screening of an M. Night Shyamalan movie called The Happening. As if this guy wasn’t on thin enough ice for making bad movies, the truckers in the audience were aghast by seeing what they should never have seen in the first place. I headed back to the concession stand but couldn’t find anyone to adjust the movie.
We were there when the 35mm projector died. Again we lined up to get our money back and were assured that the theater would be up and running with a new digital system. It seemed to happen without a hitch. In fact it now seems that the system operates at the flip of a switch. The only issue in the beginning was the night we had to sit through a movie in English subtitled in English. As a compulsive reader I found it impossible to not read the unnecessary and distracting words splashed across the screen. I put in a called to America Cinema Equipment who had installed the system and let them know that things weren’t quite up to par.
As far as I can tell there’s no truck stop movie genre. Sure the movies that come to the theater are lighter on the “chick flick” genre, but beyond the usual action adventure we get teen movies, dramas and comedies. I wouldn’t have expected to see The Grand Budapest Hotel or even It Follows there but we did. I have my limits. I’m not addicted to going to this theater every week. I passed on Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 and Adam Sandler movies. I’m considering Fast and the Furious 7 which is playing there now. I can’t remember if I saw 2-6, good God that’s too many sequels. Still a night out with my lady and some truckers seems to be my favorite entertainment past time.
See the article and great illustration featuring the Jubitz truck stop:
If you’ve read this far down it looks like I’ll be going to a weekly posting format for the summer. The plan is to post on Friday afternoons before 6pm Pacific time because a deadline is the only motivator to get things done. There’s lot’s of sunshine, dog dookie and antique browsing that’s not to be missed. See comments from the Random Round Up post for a better idea of what that means. Actually, I’m dealing with a kitchen renovation that started late in 2014 and is about to kick into high gear, chronic underemployment that’s killing the budget and a back logged video project. As for blog posts I’ll be shooting for quality over quantity but also taking time for more research and topic brainstorming. I hope to post more in the fall.