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America's Only Airport Cinema: A Look Inside the Hollywood Theatre at PDX

July 28, 2018
5 min read
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Between swimming pools, golf courses and beer gardens, there are some pretty crazy airport amenities out there. While most of them are found in airports outside of the US, there are a few exceptions. And one of those is a microcinema inside Portland International Airport (PDX): the Hollywood Theatre at PDX.

Access and Location

Have a Priority Pass membership? Great! But you don't need it to get in here. The movie theater is accessible to all ticketed passengers and is completely free.

With bright lights and an eye-catching retro facade, the theater is pretty hard to miss. It's located in concourse C (between gates C3 and C5), which is where Alaska, American, JetBlue and Southwest operate out of. That said, all concourses are connected airside, so it's easy to visit the theater regardless of the airline you're flying with.

The Theater

The theater itself has seating for 17 people, with standing room for another 10 to 20 people. The room's layout is very open so there's plenty of room for carry-ons and there are no faintly-lit stairs to haul your bags up or down. Although its day-to-day purpose is for screening films, the theater has space to accommodate live performances.

What's most unique about the theater is the films on offer — they're all by Oregon filmmakers. And since they're short-format programs on a looping reel, you don't need to plan extra long layovers here in order to stop by and enjoy a short film or two before your next flight.

Highlights of the 13 films a part of the summer 2018 program include "Relive The Oregon Trail," a story of how one of the most iconic computer games started as a board game, "Oregon: Only Slightly Exaggerated," a hyperbolic, anime-inspired look at Oregon’s many attractions and "In My Home," a film which brings to the surface the systemic bias in the US toward institutionalizing people with disabilities. Information about the theater's current program is kept up-to-date on its website.

Food and Beverage

The only thing the theater lacks is a popcorn machine. However, as you might know, PDX is known for offering some fantastic dining options. And that's especially true for Priority Pass members who could get $84 of free food and booze there.

If you truly want to maximize your card's perks, you might as well turn your layover into a date — only if your significant other likes to spend time at the airport just as much as you do, of course. Start off with dinner at Capers Cafe Le Bar, grab movie snacks from Capers Market (though you might want to do this first since it's located a different concourse), watch a film or two at the Hollywood Theatre and then sample drinks at the nearby House Spirits Distillery. Just be sure not to miss your flight!

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Photo by J. Keith van Straaten / The Points Guy.

As a reminder, Priority Pass members (and their guests) receive free food and beverage credits at a growing number of airport restaurants around the world. Complimentary Priority Pass membership comes as a perk with a few different premium credit cards, including The Platinum Card from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Overall Impression

Although airlines invest heavily in impressive lounge perks for its premium passengers, those without lounge access are usually left behind. It's refreshing to travel through an airport like PDX which is genuinely interested in improving the travel experience for all passengers. The Hollywood Theatre at PDX is unique, extremely easy to find and best of all, free. In addition to the movie theater, the airport maintains a rotating visual arts exhibits program and hosts live performances by local musicians throughout the terminal on a daily basis.

While the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) airport has a "screening room," the Hollywood Theatre at PDX is the only full-blown theater in any airport in America. That said, it's not the first of its kind worldwide. Singapore's Changi Airport (SIN) has two movie theaters, Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is home to the first airport IMAX theater and Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) has a 6D cinema, complete with moving seats and 21 special effects such as bubbles, leg ticklers and simulated snow.

All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.