PORTLAND -- It was standing room only at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday. Not because the Northeast Portland landmark was packed with moviegoers, but because the theater seats--there since the 1940's--had just been ripped out, row by uncomfortable row.
"No doubt the biggest complaint from customers has been that the seats look nice, but their backs hurt by the time they leave," said Hollywood Theatre Executive Director Doug Whyte. "There are literally springs coming out of them."
Sparks flew as power tool-wielding volunteers sliced through the seats' metal frames, freeing them from the paint-chipped theater floors. Dusty red curtains hung down from the theater's 1926 Byzantine architecture.
It was clear the Hollywood Theatre was still a jewel, but a jewel in need of a little polishing, and Whyte said a generous outpouring of donations was about to make it sparkle.
Regal Cinemas donated 650 modern, plush theater seats after remodeling the Lloyd Cinemas. To raise the money to install them, Whyte launched a donation campaign, placing two of the new seats in the theater lobby.
"We told patrons, after the movie, 'Go into the lobby and sit on the new seats. If you like those better, give us some money!' They did, and we raised $30,000 in just eight weeks,” Whyte said.
"It's going to look awesome," said volunteer Holland Rule.
As a kid, Rule said he used to come to the theater often. Now his company, PDX Clean King, is one of several local businesses volunteering time and money to preserve the landmark.
"It would be awesome to bring my kid here and say we've had a part of helping this theater," he said.
"It's just making a jewel come to life again and revitalizing our neighborhood," said volunteer Joel Hamberg.
As a child, Hamberg helped to soil the interiors that his company, Joel Hamberg Painting, just re-painted.
"I thought, you know, I’d love to give back," he said.
Whyte said generosity like that is the glue that's holding the theater together, after the recession crushed plans for a multi-million dollar renovation.
"Instead of one big fund raising campaign, we knock things off as we can in a sensible order," said Whyte, recalling stories from several donors.
"Somebody called from New York and said, 'I love that theater, I grew up in Portland,' and gave us a donation," he said. "People just love this place."
And Whyte said patrons will love the Hollywood Theater even more in about a month, when the new seats are installed, along with new curtains, carpet and a fresh coat of paint on the theater floor.
As for the old seats, Whyte said those are for sale through Joel Hamberg Painting. Interested customers were asked to contact Hamberg.