The Clinton Street Theater opened for business as a “moving picture house” in 1914 and it’s been in operation ever since, making it the longest continuously running theater in the Pacific NW. It’s a small 222-seat, single screen neighborhood cinema, tucked in the middle of a 1913 multi-use building. The theater shares the bottom floor with two bars, an antique store, a beauty shop, and a vinyl record store; eleven apartments make up the second floor. We sit catty-corner a busy intersection lined with an art gallery, a coffee shop, restaurants, a comic book store, a video store (yes, they still exist in Portland!), business offices, and health practitioners; and since Clinton Street is a bike greenway, hundreds of them pass by our doors on any given day.
The Clinton Street Theater has another claim to fame. Every Saturday night since April 1978, we dance the Time Warp (again and again and again), making our weekly run of the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW the longest in the world. This is probably the most difficult screening of the week (the show starts at midnight!), but it is also the most important one. The world can be a cruel place when you feel like you don’t fit in, and through our ROCKY HORROR screening, we create a safe environment for young LGBTQ people to explore and express who they are. Despite the late hours and the ton of rice and toast that needs to be swept up every week, I wouldn’t trade my time at ROCKY for anything.
At the Clinton, we have a simple mission--to support and build community through the power of independent film and live events. At live events we're often asked, "do you guys show movies?" and sometimes folks call with the question, "do you ever do live events?". I know it can be confusing that we do both, and sometimes it may seem like we're a "throw anything up on the wall and see what sticks" kind of theater with something different happening every day, but our blood runs deeply through several veins that keep us alive and kicking.
First and foremost, INDEPENDENT.
Because we're not interested in showing the same films that you can see at the multiplex or even at other Art Houses, we work directly with independent filmmakers and include them in our events as often as possible. There’s nothing I enjoy more than being able to program the first-time filmmaker traveling the country with not much more than a box of DVDs and a story they are burning to share. We seek out and welcome a diversity of film genres--from experimental to vintage classics--and actively create space for films that would not be shown in other venues. Most importantly, we provide programming from diverse points of view, supporting each other in the expression of our truths, while building acceptance and understanding.
Secondly, we are social justice warriors in the best sense of the term, and we work with local nonprofits to engage and involve community members around a variety of issues like care of the environment, racial inequality, violence against women, LGBTQ rights, to name only a few. In doing so, we provide a space where friendships can grow while we work together to develop life-long skills and a sense of social responsibility.
Finally, we celebrate creative expression in its many forms--live theater, storytelling, dance, burlesque, music of all sorts, poetry, stand-up comedy, even blowing bubble shows--and suffice it to say, because of our live events the floors and walls reverberate with the sound of all kinds of emotions, most of all laughter.
Yes, the Clinton Street Theater is an art house movie theater, and it's also a community space, a place where we work together for a better world for our children and grandchildren.