FONT & AUDIO
Shows go on at Montavillas Academy
The past, present and future came together last Friday night at the Academy Theater, at a party to celebrate the movie theater's grand reopening. The Academy screened films for the Montavilla neighborhood from the 1940s to the 1970s, and more recently was home to Nickel Ads publishing. It is now, for the second time in its career, a sparkling new, modestly glamorous movie house.
Lillian Teeny-Nolan and her daughter, Sharon Zimmerman, stand in the lobby, holding several big, black-and-white photos of the theater in their hands. The pictures were taken in 1948, shortly after Teeny-Nolan and her husband completed construction of the building, which includes the theater and several storefronts, and covers about half of the block.
At first the couple leased out the theater, but later they ran the Academy as a family. It was Teeny-Nolan who named the theater, choosing a name that started with an A, she says, 'so it would be on the top of the list.'
Zimmerman worked there as a teenager in the late 1950s, alongside her brother, mother and father. Her favorite film of the era was 'The Ten Commandments,' which played there to sold-out houses. The movie was so long that they could only do two screenings a day, one matinee and one in the evening.
Now, she says, the theater 'looks a little different, but it still has its original look to it, it really does É I think it's fabulous.'
Instead of the original 750-seat auditorium, there now are three smaller screening rooms, equipped with Dolby sound and big, comfortable seats. The auditoriums open out into a small lounge with cushy armchairs and little tables Ñ unlike some multiplexes, they don't shoot you out into the parking lot at the end of the movie.
The concession area is to one side of a high, round-ceilinged atrium, painted in silvery shades of blue. In addition to candy and popcorn, you can get slices of pizza from next door's Flying Pie Pizzeria (pizzeria owner Ty DuPuis also is a partner in the theater). Soon (knock on wood) you'll be able to get microbrewed beer, too.
Co-owners Heyward and Julie Stewart clearly have put a lot of thought into the setup. They have included a crying room, and a baby-sitting service for $5 a kid, ages 6 months to 7 years old. 'We've been thinking about this for many years,' Heyward Stewart confirms, 'and it's finally come together.'
He's standing in the lobby, which still smells faintly of new paint, dressed in a tuxedo, giving interviews and having his picture snapped. Many of his friends have arrived at the party dressed up in 1940s fashions. It looks like a film premiere, and Stewart admits to feeling giddy.
'We're very excited,' he says. 'It's a great turnout here.' He was in training and development in the corporate world, and his wife was a financial analyst, but running a theater was their dream. They've delved into the history of the Academy, collecting photos, stories and reminiscences from the neighborhood. Some will be framed and hung in the lobby.
Their long-term goal? 'Really, just try to make it a fun, friendly, warm place Ñ movie houses used to be gathering places, and we're hopeful that this will be just that.'
Meanwhile, Dannon Dripps is in one of the auditoriums, wiping the dust off the theater seats. It's not the dust of age, though. High backed and with cupholders, the seats are so new that they have a new-car smell. Dripps' job here, selling popcorn and taking tickets, is his first job in Portland. He arrived in town recently from Wyoming, film degree in hand. He's interested in making films, he says, so who knows? Maybe some day he'll see one of his own projects up there on the screen.
That's something for the future. For now, the Stewarts plan to show a mixture of second-run, classic and independent films, and see how it goes. Their opening roster Ñ 'King Kong,' 'Walk the Line' and 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' Ñ is culled from what Hollywood has to offer at this moment in time. Yet all three of the films Ñ a meticulous remake, a period biopic and an homage to film noir Ñ just happen to owe their substance to the past.