Tower Theatre in Bend, Deschutes County, United States | Theatre
Welcome to Tower Theatre, Bend, United States. The Tower Theatre was completed in 1940, by general contractor Fred Van Matre. Double shifts of workers were used to complete the project in just three short months. Symbolic of its name, the Theatre was surmounted by a large tower that rises 40 feet above the building, making it approximately 78 feet above the street. The tower itself was accentuated by more than 1,200 feet of neon tubes of green and gold that lead a viewer’s eye from the sign, down the facade of the building, across the marquee and into the ticket booth and the entrance.
Imported travertine marble from Italy was laid by the Lutz Marble Company of Portland to greet patrons of the Theatre. The project involved removal of over a ton of rock by Ed Eastman to accommodate heating and ventilation systems. Seating capacity of the Theatre was originally 998 including the main floor and balcony seats. A large 30 foot wide X 18 foot deep stage provided additional space for vaudeville shows and plays as well as movies. The interior space was lined with acoustical tiles, and wall-to-wall carpet to deaden any undesirable echoes or “dead spots.” The women’s lounge, on the mezzanine floor, was one of the show places of the Theatre. It was finished in choice wood of knotty pine, and had special lights.
Ties to Paramount Pictures and Hollywood Connections. Ken Hodkinson was the first manager of the Tower Theatre. As the son of W.W. Hodkinson, founder of Paramount Pictures, Hodkinson’s experience went back many years. Films for the Tower were provided by four different services; Columbia, RKO, Monogram and Warner Bros. The aim was to supply a well-balanced program of first run shows. For many years the Tower Theatre thrived as a cinema and intermittently as a performing arts stage. In 1948, in addition to showing all the hit Hollywood movies, the Theatre hosted a weekly amateur hour, fashion shows, several variety shows and even a visit from the General Platoff Don Cossack chorus—direct from Russia—which performed Cossack melodies, battle songs and dances.
The End of an Era: When the Theatre began to show mounting signs of age and with the advent of multi-screen Theatres, the Tower was closed. The owners, a large movie Theatre chain, chose not to renovate and, in 1994, sold the Theatre to a partnership made up of Win and Laurel Francis, Michael and Pat Forman and Bruce and Sandi Hinchliffe. They were interested in redeveloping the Theatre into retail and office use. When approached by a group of local citizens wanting the building to be restored as a public Theatre, the partners became actively involved in the effort.
The Return of the Tower
After a lengthy period of study, the foundation's board established a committee charged with developing a capital campaign. The campaign, called “Encore! The Return of the Tower Theatre,” was launched in 1999 with the goal of securing sufficient funds to enable the foundation to purchase, renovate, endow, and operate the Theatre. Using funds generated in the first phase of the campaign, the foundation was able to purchase the Tower from the city of Bend in 2001.