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Thursday, January 29, 2004

 

In Memoriam: KOIN Cinemas

The KOIN Cinemas, quite possibly the oddest theater* operating in Portland, went dark last Thursday. Its final lineup consisted of The House of Sand and Fog, Kill Bill, My Baby's Daddy, Master and Commander, and, ugh, Mona Lisa's Smile.

Prior to the launch of the Fox Tower Stadium, it was one of the few places in town to catch movies that walk on the artsy-fartsy side. A few years back, it was turned into a second-run theater by Regal before switching back to more independent films. In recent years, it served as an outlet for features that had worn out their welcome at the Fox or deemed not worthy of its screens.

What made the KOIN special was not so much the films it ran, but its unique layout and mystique. It was located on the second floor of the KOIN Tower next door to a country radio station. For a multi-screen cinemas, it was unusually tiny. One theater only contained fifty seats. Two of the larger ones had "cry rooms" in the back, which were rarely used and shielded by pitch-black glass. Its dark, elevated hallways felt like something out of Battlestar Galactica.

The KOIN is what introduced me and countless others to the world of "indie cinema." One of the first movies I caught there was Clerks, which I and my friends snuck into. It was sold out and my English teacher was sitting a row away. She had brought what looked like her elderly parents. She fell out of her seat laughing. They didn't crack a smile the whole time.

It was here that many Portlanders saw Reservoir Dogs, Dead Man, Lost Highway, Trainspotting, Swingers and countless other movies with posters that adorn dorm rooms all over the world.

Damn, I'm gonna miss that giant Amadeus poster in the lobby.

* The Movie House, which was owned by a private club, held this title prior to the KOIN. It was located in an old mansion on SW 12th. The ticket booth and concession stand was on the main floor, beside a living room with couches and a fire place. Upstairs, there was Victorian sitting room filled with thousand year old board games. The theater itself was outdated and looked like something that belonged in the Playboy Mansion. The Movie House closed sometime in the '90s. And now you know, if you didn't already.

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