clinton street theater

FilmWatch Weekly: Werner Herzog, POW Film Fest, socialism, and French romance

A feast of films by the legendary director of "indelibly weird classics" leads a week that also includes a 14th annual women's film festival

Werner Herzog and friend during the filming of “Fitzcarraldo.”

What is there to say about Werner Herzog that hasn’t already been said? After all, it’s not every German arthouse auteur who becomes practically a household name, a mystical paragon of cinematic purity, and a patron saint of bemused nihilism, while also popping up in the Star Wars universe and voicing three different characters (one of them himself) on The Simpsons.

A fresh opportunity to ponder how this enfant terrible of the 1970s morphed into the inspiration for a hilarious Twitter parody account arises this week as the Hollywood Theatre screens its September series Descent into Madness: The Films of Werner Herzog. A half-dozen of Herzog’s iconic early works will be featured, along with the equally iconic documentary Burden of Dreams, which chronicles the quixotic making of perhaps the most insane of them.


Streamers: Portland theaters’ reopening plans, Oscar-nominated shorts, French ski drama

Ready or not, movie theaters are starting to open again in time for the Oscars and summer blockbuster season. Plenty is still streaming, too.

As vaccines continue to make their way into the arms of more and more Oregonians, and the state in general dares to look forward to the resumption of some version of normality, it’s a good time to check in on Portland movie theaters and their plans. It should go without saying that these plans are extremely subject to change: Both Clackamas and Multnomah Counties are moving from Moderate Risk back to a High Risk status on Friday, April 9, which means that maximum allowance at theaters will move from 50% of capacity back to 25%, while Washington County will remain in the Moderate Risk category for the time being. That said, here’s a rundown of announced reopening plans.

Several independent Portland-area theaters have already reopened, including the six-screen Living Room Theaters, Cinemagic, the Moreland, Vancouver’s Kiggins Theatre, and the Liberty Theatre in Camas. Among the titles showing on their big screens are Oscar nominees Nomadland and Minari, as well as more mainstream fare such as the Bob Odenkirk action flick Nobody and the monster mash Godzilla vs. Kong. The venerable Clinton Street Theater is resuming its traditional Saturday night Rocky Horror Picture Show events, although at 9 p.m. instead of midnight due to county restrictions.

One mainstay of Portland’s movie scene, Cinema 21, recently announced plans to open to the public for the first time in over a year on April 23 with a pair of documentaries: Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street and The Truffle Hunters. Another, the Hollywood Theatre, has yet to indicate a timeline, although it continues to offer remote programming, including an upcoming remote master class on the films of director Richard Linklater. The Northwest Film Center at the Portland Art Museum remains closed to the public as well, although it is opening experimental filmmaker Sky Hopinka’s poetic debut feature Małni—Towards the Ocean, Towards the Shore virtually on Friday, April 9.

Two chains operate theaters in Portland. Century Cinemas have opened their multiplexes at Eastport Plaza and Cedar Hills Crossing, while the screens at Clackamas Town Center remain dark for the time being. Regal Cinemas is planning a phased reopening. Bridgeport Village will begin on April 23, with the bulk of its Portland screens to follow on May 14. (The Pioneer Place theaters will wait until the following week, May 21.) Obviously, the summer movie season beckons, and these places are understandably eager to welcome paying customers once again. Personally, I don’t plan on setting foot in an indoor theater until, at the very earliest, I’m fully vaccinated, but once it seems safe to do so, I plan on making up for lost time with a vengeance.


A scene from the Oscar-nominated “Do Not Split”

IN THE MEANTIME, many Portland-area theaters continue to offer expansive selections in their virtual cinemas, and will presumably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They provide a great way not only to help support exhibitors during this disastrous time, but also to keep abreast of exciting cinema that doesn’t necessarily get showcased on Netflix or Disney+.


Streamers: What’s Next for Movie Theaters?

Welcome to the brave new world of total confusion in the movie business

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned, or at least should have learned, over the least year or four, it’s that prediction is folly. As a calamitous 2020 comes to a close, and we take a moment, despite ourselves, to imagine what the coming 12 months have in store for cinema, about the only thing we can be sure of is that it’ll be better. Right? I mean, it kind of has to be better. Right?

In Portland, movie theaters have been closed to the general public since mid-March. The survival of one of the nation’s best exhibition infrastructures hangs in the balance.  Beloved independent venues such as Cinema 21, the Hollywood Theatre, the Northwest Film Center, the Clinton Street Theater, the Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters, and more have explored inventive ways to bring in at least a fraction of their normal revenue. These have included partnering with indie distributors to serve as portals for online rentals, renting themselves out for private, socially-distanced screenings, and selling concessions to go.