Oriental Theatre – The amazing and tragically old theater in Portland

Oriental Theatre – The amazing and tragically old theater in Portland

Built in 1927, the theater was a 2,040-seat movie palace designed by Lee Arden Thomas and Albert Mercier. The building’s exterior was in the Italian Renaissance style. The interior had an “almost surreal appearance” created by interior designer Adrien Alex Voisin. It was built by George Warren Weatherly.

The Weatherly Building and Oriental Theatre today. As of 2019, the space formerly occupied by the Oriental is a parking lot / Image: Google maps
The Weatherly Building and Oriental Theatre 1960s / Image: Library of Congress

Walter Eugene Tebbetts is listed as “the promoter who persuaded Weatherly to build a theatre,” and was the first lessee and manager of the theater.The building was designed and built at the same time as the neighboring Weatherly Building. The exterior design matched the Weatherly Building, and heat was supplied from it.

The Oriental utilized Asian influences from India, Indochina, and China and included “columns on each side of the screen”, said to be based on the Temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

The auditorium of Oriental Theatre / Image: Library of Congress

Opened on December 31, 1927, in the afternoon. The grand opening included “An Atmospheric Prologue”, and silent films The Girl from Everywhere and The Moon of Israel.The Oriental Theatre was demolished in February 1970, making room for parking at the Weatherly Building.

The auditorium was topped by a vast dome, lit indirectly by 2400 light bulbs, as well as a 900 kg “tree-sized Far Eastern style chandelier” including 3000 light bulbs in seven colors / Image: Library of Congress
The lobby and mezzanine were decorated with Hindu deities and “the main staircase leading to the balcony was flanked by a pair of huge dragons” / Image: Library of Congress

Featured Image: The theater’s main entrance, November 1969 / Image: By Winkle, Lyle E. – Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress via Wikipedia

Websites: portlandoregon.gov

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