Known Years of Operation

May 11, 1916 - Dec 31, 1922

Number of Seats



Ackerman and Harris, Tom Conlon, W.W. Ely

The history of the Hippodrome on SW Broadway and Yamhillbegins on April 11, 1916, as the theater was previously known as the Orpheum, gets bought out by the Hippodrome vaudeville circuit run by Ackerman and Harris. It was transformed into another Hippodrome theater and would become a part of the Northwest circuit of the company. The manager from December 12, 1916- April 17, 1917, was Tom Conlon. From April 17, 1917, until information runs out for theater the manager was W.W. Ely who was previously the manager of a Hippodrome in San Francisco but was transferred to Portland. While the theater began as a vaudeville only location as films began to gain more and more in popularity in American culture, it transformed into a film only theater. Searching through paper archives it can be seen that while there were standard programming bills and newspaper advertisements that demonstrated the collection of films that would be shown, there was a variety of other strategies as well. They would also have promotions and premiers that included the stars of the films and it would become a grand affair for the whole city. This is quite different from Portland today when there are very few premieres in Portland and celebrities rarely attend screenings in the city.

There was also a variety of other events that were held at the theater including church masses and free shows for children to promote safety. One of the more fascinating aspects of researching the theater that also helped provide cultural context for the era was that in 1919 the theater added a garden to commemorate the conclusion of the first world war. It was a memorial to honor those who had fallen and was orchestrated by employees at the theater and not mandated by their owners. This detail helps add a human perspective to history and helps it come to life as a living history and not just words in a newspaper. There was also an article that had the manager W.W Ely describe how prohibition helped increase theater productivity and sales. The article does not explicitly mention the reasons for this, but one could assume that it was because of a combination of people needing more activities to participate in due to them not being allowed to drink, as well as more money available to spend on leisure activities. For some reason after December 31, 1922, the name Hippodrome Theater stops appearing and there is no evidence that the theater closed down or was sold.

Going into this project I believed that conducting research that hasn’t already been studied would prove to be a daunting and disheartening task, but has actually proven to be quite enjoyable. Looking for specific items such as the seat numbers and fire map have proven quite difficult and the mystery of why the databases drop the Hippodrome is still a mystery I hope to solve, but when I am just gathering articles that describe the time period and the general day to day activities of the movie theater it is fascinating to learn. Quirky and strange oddities and promotions have proven to be the most enjoyable stuff to discover but also finding out how major historical events such as the First World War and Prohibition effected film going have proven to be the most striking. It demonstrates how films and the culture at large are always in a dialogue with each other and change depending on the social landscape. The Oregon Newspaper Database has proven to be the most helpful and most user-friendly platform for discovering new articles and advertisements for my theater. After discovering who the main manager was also helpful and I am in the process of discovering more about his background and how he ran the theater.

Works Cited

  • Sunday Oregonian, April 9, 1916, pg. 5, Oregon Historic Newspapers

    Morning Oregonian, May 1, 1916, pg.4, Oregon Historic Newspapers

    Morning Oregonian, December 13, 1916, pg.13, Oregon Historic Newspapers

    Morning Oregonian, April 17, 1917, pg.7 Oregon Historic Newspapers

    Morning Oregonian, April 25, 1918, pg.8, Oregon Historic Newspapers

    Morning Oregonian, July 20, 1920, pg.13 Oregon Historic Newspapers