9. Portland, Oregon
One of the biggest draws to Portland is the city’s storied lifestyle, which features deep cultural opportunities and endless options for those who love the outdoors. The city is lucky to be the home of several noted independent movie theaters, including the iconic Hollywood Theater (a cinephile’s dream) and the Clinton Street Theater (the oldest continually operating movie theater west of the Mississippi).
And should you doubt that Portland is alive with filmmaking, note that more than 350 film permits were issued by the city in 2014. Laika Studios, the animation giant behind Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls is located within Portland’s metropolitan area. The city also features noted film programs at Portland State University and classes at the Northwest Film Center, the Art Institute of Portland and Pacific Northwest College of Art.
MovieMaker publisher Tim Rhys, who made Portland his home this year and has opened a PDX office for the magazine in the Northwest Documentary building downtown, says he appreciates the strength and commitment of the independent film community, and has been surprised to learn of the city’s unheralded film history. Oregon film historian Anne Richardson has given lectures tracing the Portland film family tree; her “Mid-Century Oregon Genius” series at the Hollywood brought Oregon native James Ivory to Portland in September 2014, and will honor another native, Homer Groening, in February 2015.
Film critic Shawn Levy, in a recent interview in About Face magazine, answered the question “Why is Portland a great movie town?” He said, “If you draw a line from City Hall to the Hollywood Theatre and make that the radius of a circle, in that circle you have more screens dedicated to independent, alternative, documentary, avant-garde, and experimental cinema than you do Hollywood studio films. There may be more screens dedicated to those things in New York, L.A., San Francisco, and Chicago, but they are spread out all over the place.” As if to underscore Levy, Portland’s incredible video store Movie Madness is also a film museum, which features props from 100 years of classic movies.
Oregon also has a $10 million tax credit program (raised from $6 million in 2013) which offers 20 percent off Oregon-based goods and services, and 10 percent off Oregon-based payroll. And hey, it’s still the most affordable big city on the West Coast.