Oregon Theatre


836 Willamette St., Eugene, Oregon

Local movie entrepreneurs J.J. (Joseph) Bryan and Mrs. M.E. (Martha) Watson opened the grand Oregon Theatre in July 1915. They had recently spent over $4,000 remodeling and expanding the space formerly occupied by the Folly [link] at 836 Willamette St. (The address was 572 Willamette prior to 1913 when the street numbering system changed in Eugene.)

836 Willamette St., Eugene, 1925. Digital Sanborn Maps

The Oregon had 675 seats, which made it the second largest theater in town, after the Rex, which had 800.

Owners Bryan and Watson invested in an aggressive promotional campaign for their new theater during the summer of 1915. They ran regular, large ads in the Eugene Daily Guard to announce upcoming shows, and used the effective “beautiful baby voting” contest to attract families to the theater.

The Oregon presented a program that was a typical mix of feature-length narrative fiction films, along with non-fiction shorts, comedies, and newsreels. One week in July 1915, for example, moviegoers could see “The Wild Goose Chase,” “Physical Training in the French Army,” and a selection of Paramount travel pictures. Admission was 5¢ and 10¢.

That same month, the Oregon screened “The Stolen Pie,” a “photoplay scream” recently shot in Eugene and featuring many local people. “See if you are in it,” urged one newspaper ad. Ticket prices were slightly higher for “The Stolen Pie,” 20¢ for adults and 10¢ for children, apparently because the film cost the exhibitors so much more to run. “This film cost us a good deal—but it is worth it.”

The Oregon contracted with Paramount Pictures to be the exclusive exhibitor of Paramount movies in Eugene. J.J. Bryan had a similar arrangement with Paramount when he ran the Savoy in April 1915.

Despite all of these efforts and the financial investment they had plowed into the theater, within two months of opening Bryan and Watson gave up and closed the Oregon. They leased the theater to the management of the Rex and the Savoy, and it continued under different ownership through 1919.

The Oregon continued to be a stalwart member of the local movie house scene, showing popular features such as “The Spell of the Yukon” (Burton King, 1916) and the sensational documentary “Cannibals of the South Seas” (Martin and Osa Johnson, 1918).

Eugene Daily Guard, 8 July 1915, p. 6
Eugene Daily Guard, 10 July 1915, p. 7
Eugene Daily Guard, 24 July 1915, p. 5
Eugene Daily Guard 29 July 1915 p. 5
Eugene Daily Guard, 18 Aug. 1915, p. 8
Eugene Daily Guard, 23 Aug. 1915, p. 6
Eugene Daily Guard, 9 Sept. 1915, p. 1
Eugene Daily Guard, 7 July 1916, p. 3
Eugene Daily Guard, 7 July 1916, p. 3
Eugene Daily Guard, 6 Feb. 1919, p. 2