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Last Picture Show for Second-Run Theaters?

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Admittedly, one of the sweeter parts of living in Portland is nearly unfettered access to cheap movies.

The one-screen, first-run Cinemagic in Southeast Portland and the two-screen St. John's Cinema in the North boast a $7 regular price and $5 matinees. Art and revival houses like Cinema 21 and the Hollywood Theatre let first-run tickets go for between $6 and $9 while giving patrons beer and the occasional kung-fu night or low-percentage documentary. Even the town's "luxury" theater -- the downtown Living Room Theaters with their leather armchairs, digital seating charts and full-service restaurant and bar -- will let you into its newest indie offerings for $5 on Tuesday nights.

But even all of that pales in comparison to the best deals in town: The second-run theaters. An absolute palace like the Laurelhurst, aglow in neon and commanding lines around the block on weekends, will let you into a slightly dated showing of The World's End or The Way, Way Back for $4. Get a slice of pizza and a beer from nearby Coalition or Migration breweries, and it still might not cost you $10.

The Avalon Theater supplements its nickel arcade games with $3 showings of Disney's Planes and We're the Millers. The Academy Theater just down the road offers pizza, beer and even babysitting services on top of its $4 showings of The Butler and The Wolverine. The Kennedy School, meanwhile, will show you the The World's End for $4 and offer you a slice and beer in a reclaimed school building.

It's made second-run theaters and waiting a few months for their budget-priced releases a cornerstone of the city's vibrant cinema culture. It also made the whole enterprise seem even more fragile when second-run palace The Bagdad Theater recently began renovations and announced that it was going with first-run movies that would increase the price of a show from $3 to $8.50.

The theater has been around since 1927, when it was first opened by Universal Studios, and served as the premiere site for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest in 1975. Pub chain McMenemin's bought the theater in 1991, gave it its first facelift and help reopen it with the help of Portland director Gus Van Sant and the premiere of My Own Private Idaho. The latest renovation stripped antique loveseats out of the balcony, replaced old seats with plush 24-inch-wide versions, increased the size of the screen and added 7.1 surround sound and a 4K digital projector.
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