Forest Theater: 70 years strong
The Forest Theater sits squarely among other buildings in downtown Forest Grove, it's towering concrete marquee with the word "Forest" lends the charm of yesteryear to old town.
Still operating as a movie theater, the Forest Theater turns 70 years old this year and the Friends of Historic Forest Grove are throwing a birthday party to celebrate.
Cherie Savoie Tintary, a member of FHFG, said the theater building is historically and architecturally significant, and the group wants to bring attention to what they see as one of the city's gems.
On Friday, July 14, FHFG will host an anniversary party at the theater. Doors open at 6 p.m., and a screening of the film "Out of the Past," starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer shows at 7 p.m.
Savoie Tintary encourages attendees to dress up in 1940s-era attire and make an evening of it.
Since the Concours d'Elegance car show will be in town the same weekend, she's hoping to find several car owners willing to park their 1940s-era cars in front of the theater to add to the evening's festivities.
IF YOU GO
Forest Theater — 70th Anniversary
1911 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove
Friday, July 14, 6 p.m.
"Out of the Past" screening at 7 p.m.
The theater itself is part of the Watrous Building, according to information on a City of Forest Grove Inventory of Historic Properties survey form dated 1993.
Built in two phases, the original 1940 part of the building housed a bus station and retail office space.
The theater portion of the building was constructed in 1946, with office space for doctors upstairs.
The original owners were Mr. and Mrs. Don Watrous, who also owned the Star Theater (currently Theatre in the Grove) on Pacific Avenue and the Car-Vue, a drive-in that was located near the Cornelius Fred Meyer store.
Prior to the Watrous Building, the "Sandborn Fire Insurance Company maps of Forest Grove show that, in 1912, there was a wooden structure marked 'undertaker' on the property where the 1940's concrete theater now stands."
Now owned by Chet Wolter and operated by Robert Perkins, who also operates the Cornelius 9 Cinemas, the old theater has had some upgrades over the years. Perkins took over the theater operations in 2006. "I wanted to keep the theater up and running," he said. Perkins has a long history in the movie business — on the theater side.
He started working at his father's drive-in movie theater, the Southland 68 Auto Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky, when he was 16 years old, he said. That drive-in held upwards of 1,200 cars.
In 1982, Perkins moved to Oregon. In 1985 he began working for Tom Moyer, an early innovator of multi-screen theaters in the Pacific Northwest area and owner of the Moyer/Luxury Theater circuit.
Perkins has upgraded the sound system and switched to digital projection. He replaced the old theater seats with more comfortable seats with more leg room. The restrooms remain much the same, with original tile; and the projection room still holds some film, reels and a projector remniscent of a bygone era. The theater currently seats about 340.
Art deco architecture
The art deco-style building is one of the few examples in the city. According to the Historical Properties survey form, "the theater is actually closer to the Art Moderne or Modernistic style, a popular style of 1930's movie houses. While Art Deco emphasized geometric forms, Art Moderne was embellished with glazed brick or colored tiles."
The original black tile siding on the building's south side has been replaced with brown brick, but the Art Moderne parapet remains, as does the original marquee, and two chandeliers in the theater lobby.
And, as the Historical Properties survey states, "... Forest Grove is fortunate to have such a structure still standing and being used for its original purpose."