What’s a High-End Home Theater Doing in America’s Best Airport*?

You wouldn’t expect to see a high-end, 17-seat “microcinema” in the middle of an airport, but that’s exactly what I found at Oregon’s Portland International Airport (PDX) after I’d landed there in late July of this year. After being in the air for hours, scurrying through DFW to make a connection in a different terminal, and then spending more hours in the air, I was in no mood to explore anything other than the baggage claim carousel once I finally shuffled off the plane. So, despite glancing at the 30-feet wide, neon-emblazoned Hollywood Theatre marquee as the moving walkway carried me passed it, I remained blissfully ignorant as to the who, what, why, and how of the whole thing. (Even in my air travel-induced stupor, I was able to deduce the “where” part…)

Portland is the home of—and has been for something like three decades—Triad Speakers, a laid-back loudspeaker company that claims to be “the sole company designing and manufacturing a comprehensive line of high-end architectural loudspeakers.” They make some awesome in-room speakers and subwoofers. (I know because I’ve reviewed quite a few Triad systems over the years. You can find some of those Triad reviews at these links: InRoom Silver System, InWall Bronze/4 SlimSub, DS500 Invisible In-Wall Speaker System, and Atmos-Enabled InRoom Bronze LR-H Speaker System Review.) I, along with several other members of the press, had made the trek to Portland to take a tour of Triad’s headquarters and manufacturing facility (during which time we gorged ourselves on way too many of the Voodoo Doughnuts placed on platters in front of us). More importantly, we were being given a sneak peak at several Triad products that were eventually unveiled later in September at CEDIA 2017: Triad Brings 30 Years of Passion to Multi-Room Audio and Triad One Amp Adds High-Res Sound Zones to Control4 Systems.

At some point during our tour, Steve Colburn, Triad’s System Designer/Speakers and one of the company’s many multi-year, veteran employees (nearly everyone at Triad has worked there for 10, 15, or 20 years), somewhat casually mentioned that there was a high-end theater with Triad speakers located in the Portland airport. In fact, in addition to the Triad contribution, the Hollywood Theatre at PDX contains an impressive amount of high-performance AV gear from companies that people familiar with custom integration will probably recognize, such as Barco, Access Networks, Crestron, Middle Atlantic, Planar/Leyard, Stewart Filmscreen, and Wire World.

Of course, Colburn wasn’t doing free promotion for the Hollywood Theatre at PDX out of the goodness of his heart. He was especially passionate about the project because the company’s speakers in the system weren’t simply a standard collection of a run-of-the-mill speaker package. Actually, considering that almost everything Triad makes is built-to-order, they really don’t have any “run-of-the-mill” speakers—but you should still get the point. This unique microcinema—which is basically a high-end home theater but with the following modifications: 17 individual seats, large spaces for wheelchair access, no doors (just open doorways), a discarded paper coffee cup on the floor, and it’s inside an airport terminal—is tricked out with a Triad speaker system consisting of a trio of the company’s top-of-the-line InRoom Cinema Reference LCR 2 main speakers along with four InRoom Cinema Reference Surround 2 speakers mounted on the walls in alcoves recessed into the room’s acoustic panels.

Unfortunately, train and plane schedules left me little time to evaluate the system when it was time to fly back home from Portland. I wish that I could have heard some demos of a theatrical movie clips, but the Hollywood Theatre at PDX only features short, family-friendly films telling stories specific to the Pacific Northwest created by Oregon filmmakers. The films are compiled in an hour-long loop that runs 24/7. Unfortunately for evaluation purposes, there was neither a remote control nor an option to pause/rewind the playback. It didn’t matter, though, because the short features I was able to stay for looked and sounded absolutely spectacular. If you’re ever on Concourse C in the Portland airport, make sure you stop and sit in the Hollywood Theatre at PDX for at least a few minutes. (There’s no charge for admittance, by the way.) On its own, the theater system is a true state-of-the-art achievement that’s totally worth spending the time to experience. That achievement becomes even more impressive when you consider the fact that it provides such top-notch performance despite the fact that its located inside busy airport terminal.

My advice is that you take a seat in the Hollywood Theatre at PDX upon arrival in Portland. If you get lost in the experience, at least your luggage will still be waiting for you an hour later when the loop gets back to the spot when you first walked in. If you’re departing, you’ll run the risk of becoming so entranced that you’ll miss your flight.

(You can check out the which short films are currently playing here. If you’re an aspiring Oregonian filmmaker, you can submit your work for consideration on the Film Freeway submission page.) The Hollywood Theatre at PDX opened February 14 of this year, and was created by the Hollywood Theatre in a partnership with the Port of Portland.

*What Makes Portland International the Best Airport in the U.S.?

utopianemo's picture

It's a shame Voodoo Doughnuts has the trendy cache it has; They're not anywhere near the top of the pile in Portland when it comes to quality. If I wanted stale cereal stuck to mediocre glazed doughnuts, well.....no, I wouldn't ever want that. Why does anybody else?

But it's funny you should mention the theater! My wife just visited there recently while picking up a relative, and it really made an impact. She showed me one of the films she watched while she was there. It wasn't the type of thing that would make one appreciate a good sound system, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.