The Clinton Street Theater has self proclaimed their theater as the oldest operating movie house west of the Mississippi River, per The Clinton Street Theater website. Motion pictures, vaudeville and other acts were all parts of the amusement visitors would be able to enjoy at the theater; the following work wanted ad shows the Clinton Street Theater seeking out acts. Building at 808 1/2 Clinton Street began in the 1914s; in the spring of 1915, The Clinton Street Theater was open to the public with Ed Soderstrom as the manager of the theater. Throughout the theater's long history, the Clinton Street Theater has experienced new names, new managers and other changes although through all of it's changes the theater still remains in the same original location with an intimate single screen venue with the capacity for 222 patrons.
From an article in The Morning Oregonian on February 1st of 1917, it shows that the theater got off to a rather quick as being in the public's spotlight. Two boys, Charles Cain and Irvin Campbell, were arrested a the Clinton Street Theater during a showing of a film due to firing "torpedos" during a pistol duel on the screen. This was a major shock to the crowd, making women scream and patrons flee from the theater. Due to this occurring during the silent era of films, the crowd was not use to the noise which caused the chaos. Ed Soderstrom, the manager of the Clinton Street Theater, was present at the court hearing for the two boys and made sure that the boys would apologize to the crowd. In the article, it is addressed that Soderstrom made the boys come back to the theater two nights in a row to apologize to the crowd where he would highly advertise the occasion. This event, which was seen to startle the crowd still ended up bringing lots more patrons to the apology for the two boys mischievous acts.
Serials, which are similar to modern day television shows, were something that brought masses to the Clinton Street Theater. From The Morning Oregonian, Exploits of Elaine the series is advertised to be played at the Clinton Street Theater. Exploits of Elaine was a 1914 American film serial that was vastly popular around the nation. Serials were very important to the Clinton due to bringing audiences in every week when the episodes would come out to the public. Most all of the public would fill the theaters every nights of the weekends waiting to see their favorite pictures.
The Clinton Street Theater went under a change of management during the year 1919. In an article from The Morning Oregonian, it states that E.J. Potter and T.L. Monteith will be taking over the management from Ed Soderstrom due to Soderstrom leaving the city of Portland. The theater was closed for a chunk of time due to Soderstroms departure from Portland. One of the things that the article made sure to include was that even though there was going to be new management, serials would still continue to play in the theater. This short little article shows how important the serials were to both the theater and the public; because of the crowds and attention the theater was receiving from the showings of The Exploits of Elaine and other serials, such as Elmo, the Mighty and The Great Radium Mystery, it was evident that the theater needed to keep showing these pictures to keep the public coming in masses.
Promotion strategies were a very important aspect for the management at the Clinton Street Theater. In an article from The Sunday Oregonian it addresses E.J. Potter and two of his different promotional strategies that turned out to work extremely well for the Clinton. Due to the timing of this article, right before Thanksgiving, it is stated that E.J. Potter would be outside of the Clinton Street Theater giving away turkeys to patrons who had purchased tickets to the theater. This is something that both shows the social reputation the theater was trying to give off as well as the promotional strategy to get more and more admission to the theater. Along with this strategy, another strategy was given by Potter; Potter explained in the article that he had been having nights of the week where children had free admission to the theater. Potter is quoted in the article saying "A rather unusual discovery I made on some of the 'kiddies free' entertainments, is the fact that more grown-ups were numbered in the audiences when the children came free than on many occasions when there was no such arrangement." This strategy proved to be a huge success for Potter and the Clinton Street Theater as they were able to make even more money than usual just by allowing children to be admitted for free.
Today, the Clinton Street Theater is still in its original location. The theaters most noteworthy fact that the Clinton has been showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show weekly since 1978, making it one of the longest running movies in the world. The theater is proud to have not changed locations, nor many other things about the theater. Besides new owners and other management coming into the theater, the building and everything about the theater has been kept in great shape and continues to show pictures to date. The Clinton Street Theater is one of Portland's most historic theaters and a place that is worth the visit to be a part of Portland's history.