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Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10


The Theater: Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10

846 SW Park Avenue

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Regal likes to claim that the Fox Tower Stadium 10 is one of their “arthouse” theaters. Though I can’t speak for Regal’s other theaters of this title, the label in this case is kinda sorta half true.

The full truth is that the Fox Tower 10 usually plays higher-profile arthouse movies, right on that line between the mainstream and the fringe. Though they do occasionally play movies that are completely and totally obscure (Page One: Inside the New York Times), most of the movies shown have at least one big-name actor and/or corporate distribution through companies like Fox Searchlight or Sony Picture Classics (Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, Beginners). Every once in a while — with increasing frequency of late — they’ll just go ahead and play some movie that’s completely mainstream (Horrible Bosses, The Hangover Part II, Source Code, and Hanna have all played here). Foreign films screen here quite frequently, but almost always on the condition that the movie has either won an Oscar or is in a solid position to do so. In fact, Fox Tower 10 is a great place to go during awards season, since it plays all the Oscar-nominated films it can while advertising which movie is up to win what.

Basically put, challenging and/or completely unknown movies at the Fox Tower 10 are the exception and not the rule. Ink would never have played here. Hobo with a Shotgun and Rubber would never have played here. Even Hesher and Super, two indie films with more than their share of star power, would never have played here. I think the most controversial move this theater has made in recent memory was when it agreed to be the only theater in Portland playing Atlas Shrugged: Part I (seriously, that happened).

The reason for these film selections, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, is money. The company line is that older arthouse theaters like the Laurelhurst and the Clinton Street Theater can afford to take more chances on artistic films, because they’re older and their mortgages have long since been paid. The Fox Tower 10, on the other hand, is occupying a prime spot of real estate that’s only been open for a decade or so. As such, the management is forced into selecting films that have more mainstream appeal. Having said that, the management does generally do a nice job of putting its money toward investing in chances for films like Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

Though the Fox Tower 10 is nowhere near among the best arthouses in town (we’ll be getting to a few of those later on, trust me), you’ll never find a big-budget 3D extravaganza here, either. It’s a place in between those two classes of theater, showing movies that might not otherwise have found a place in either one.

More About the Place: No, the tower wasn’t named after any subsidiary of News Corporation (though we do have a KOIN Tower, named for our local CBS affiliate). The tower was actually named after the Fox Theatre, a silent movie/vaudeville house known as the Heilig Theatre when it first opened back in 1910. Alas, the theater was finally demolished in 1997 to make way for its namesake tower — complete with a theater of its own — which opened in 2000.

The tower itself is 27 stories high, the fifth largest in Portland. It was developed by Tom Moyer, whom you may remember from my write-up on the Lloyd Center 10. Designed by TVA Architects — a local firm responsible for several other notable Oregon buildings, such as the Nike World Headquarters outside Beaverton — the tower has a very unique mix of angles and curves in its construction. This strange aesthetic is actually functional, as it was specifically designed to cast the smallest possible shadow on the neighboring Pioneer Courthouse Square (more on that later).

The tower also features a 5-floor underground parking garage (one of the largest in the city), as well as some retail shops, 18 floors of office spaces, and of course, the Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10 theater.

Moyer himself insisted that there be a theater in the tower, not only because of the former Fox Theatre, but also because of his own past as a theater magnate and his connections with Regal. The theater is built in such a way that the box office is on the ground floor, but all of the screens are on the second floor. This is rare for Portland theaters, so far as I know, but it’s apparently very common in urban construction. Ground-floor real estate, you see, is much more expensive than space higher up (the Regal Pioneer Place 6 — which takes up the entire top floor at Pioneer Place just a few blocks away — is another example).

More than anything else, the Fox Tower 10 has two primary attractions. First is its slightly off-kilter film selection, bringing lesser-known films to Regal customers. Second is that it’s located right in the heart of downtown Portland, which makes the tower (and its lesser-known films) easily accessible. Its location also means that the tower is surrounded by all manner of prominent city landmarks. Let’s look at some of them now.

Also in the Area: First and foremost is the Pioneer Courthouse Square, located at 6th and Morrison, just opposite the tower’s northeast corner. The federal Pioneer Courthouse itself, facing the square’s east side, is the second-oldest federal courthouse west of the Mississippi, built in 1875.

Note the direction pole on the right.

In 1858, even before Oregon was a state in the union, this square was the site of Portland’s first publicly-funded school. The block would later be the site of the historic Portland Hotel, which was then demolished to make room for a parking lot. In turn, the lot was purchased by the city in the late ’70s as part of a massive downtown renewal plan. The city government was determined to turn this block into a public space, but bureaucrats balked at the cost of construction, not to mention the land’s acquisition from Meier & Frank (those are two local families with a lot of power in Portland, even after they sold out to Macy’s). To raise money, donors paid to have their names inscribed on over 50,000 bricks that would make up the square (those who look carefully can find bricks named for celebrities as well). So it was that in 1984, the Pioneer Courthouse Square was opened.

Since then, the square has become fondly known as “Portland’s Living Room.” Locals come here every day to eat lunch, play chess, feed the pigeons, catch a MAX ride or just hang out. Tourists and natives alike can be seen admiring the “Umbrella Man” (formally known as “Allow Me,” by Seward Johnson) or the “Weather Machine,” a strange device from Omen Designs Inc. that tells the current temperature and predicts the next day’s weather precisely at noon. Parades and rallies in Portland are pretty much obligated to pass the square at some point. Indeed, several city events (like the annual Rose Festival, when the picture above was taken) are held inside the square. Movies are played for free admission on July and August nights, and there’s a giant Christmas tree lit here every winter. In fact, last year’s tree lighting was interrupted by an attempted Muslim terrorist bombing, though federal and local authorities had thankfully been on the alleged culprit’s case for so long that they prevented him from doing any harm. Incidentally, the Fox Tower 10 was playing Four Lions at the time. Irony!

There’s another public park just next door to the Fox Tower, and it’s another result of the aforementioned ’70s renewal plan, albeit one that took a lot more time to really go anywhere. By and by, the parking space on 9th and Yamhill was turned into Director Park and opened in 2009. Though not nearly as beloved as its older sibling, Director Park still has a sizable fountain that kids have splashed around in since the park was completed. It also has a neat glass canopy — lit by color-shifting neon — over an eco-friendly and locally-run cafe named Violetta. They only serve food and ingredients from local businesses, and their burgers are phenomenal.

And yes, the park really was named for people called Director. I can only assume some idiot working at Ellis Island was responsible for the stupid surname, as Simon and Helen Director were a pair of immigrants who met and married in Portland. They had three daughters together and one of them, Arlene, eventually married into the wealthy and philanthropic Schnitzer family. Speaking of which…

This sign — located two blocks south of Fox Tower 10 — is permanently imprinted onto the hippocampus of every Portlander. It marks a theater built in 1927, one of the last in a long line of performing houses on Broadway. It used to be called the Paramount Theater, until a $10 million renovation was undertaken to save the theater from demolition back in 1984. A sizable portion of that money came from Harold and Arlene Schnitzer, and so the theater was renamed the “Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.”

Today, this theater is home to the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Youth Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, and the White Bird Dance Company. You might assume that the theater is focused on live music, but pretty much anything can be seen at the Schnitz. Concerts, movies, plays, stand-up comedy, scientific lectures, you name it.

Finally, there’s the Park Avenue West “Tower” opposite the northwest corner of Fox Tower. Outside of City Hall meetings, we don’t talk about the Park Avenue West Tower.

There it is.

Personal Memories: As far as I know, the first movie I ever saw at Fox Tower 10 was either Mirrormask or The Aristocrats. I’m not really sure which. Either way, it marked the first time that I had tracked down a relatively obscure film and went out of my way to see it. I’ve been coming to the Fox Tower more and more frequently ever since.

This theater is where I’ve seen such masterpieces as The Hurt Locker, Black Swan, Never Let Me Go and The Secret of Kells. This is the theater that hosted Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a movie that looked so completely weird that I just had to see it. I saw Moon in this theater twice. I brought my dad — an occasional guitarist — with me to see It Might Get Loud here. This tower is also where I saw Mother and Meek’s Cutoff, but I suppose you can’t win ’em all.

Though the “arthouse” films in the Fox Tower tend to side toward the mainstream, they get more convenient showtimes, longer runs and comfier screening rooms than most independently-run theaters could afford to provide. This is artistic cinema presented with Regal style, a very happy medium between indie and corporate. It’s a high-profile theater that’s making fringe cinema more accessible to the masses (however slightly), and I salute it for that much.

P.S. I’d like to thank Robbie Arrington, the marketing manager for Regal Entertainment, who was nice enough to answer a few questions for this article.

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