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Movie Night Without A Loan Application: Prineville's Pine Theater makes movie-going fun again 

The back to the future at the pine. Last December, Christmas came early in Prineville. A handful of days before St. Nick was scheduled to

click to enlarge The back to the future at the pine.
  • The back to the future at the pine.
The back to the future at the pine. Last December, Christmas came early in Prineville. A handful of days before St. Nick was scheduled to shimmy down chimneys and/or bathroom vents of good little boys and girls, Prineville received the best gift a town could ask for: a movie theater.

Scratch that, an open movie theater.

You see, Prineville always had a movie house; there was just this small matter of it not showing any films for the last 20-odd years. Word on the street is that the Pine Theater-first opened in 1938-went dark on account of rowdy teenagers. Damn those youths (insert fist waving in air)! Oh, and something about lack of appropriate fire exits.

Yet one chilly night, nine months ago, the neon sign flickered on and the marquee lit up. After a twenty year hiatus, date night in Prineville was back; and not a moment too soon.

Over the last decade, Prineville swelled from a big town to a small city of over 10,000 people. While new shops opened catering to locals, entertainment options were in short supply. There were no venues for live music, no brew pubs for smoke-free socializing, and the only bowling alley sits miles from downtown.
Prineville was hurting, not only socially but also economically. Everyday, hundreds of people drove their paychecks out of Crook County and spent them elsewhere, robbing Prineville of millions of dollars in possible revenue. Bad news for a little city trying to shake its "Prinetucky" image.

What was a bored Prinevillian to do? Enter the Mehrabi family. Recent transplants from the Willamette Valley, the Mehrabis dared to take on threats of rambunctious teens and long meetings with fire inspectors. They purchased the property and executed an extensive (and expensive) renovation, opening the historic venue just in time for the holiday season. Suddenly, town folk found themselves saying "let's go see a movie" for the first time in 20 years. Merry Christmas, indeed.

A visit to the Pine Theater is a treat; a throw-back to the movie-going experience of yore. For instance, the Pine is the only downtown movie house in all of Central Oregon. Locals can walk or bike to the entrance without having to dodge SUVs piloted by cell-phone laden Talbots shoppers.

Once inside, moviegoers will notice the unique pricing structure. All tickets, all shows, all ages: six dollars. Amble over to the concession counter where no snack costs over three dollars. For you Math Counts alumni out there, you have just secured movie night for under ten bucks.

Patrons enter the theater through a set of custom upholstered doors adorned with pine trees in silhouette. The theater walls are accented with reclaimed pine molding, and the ceiling is supported by enormous timber beams-undoubtedly products of one of the local mills. The Pine only offers one or two first-run films each week, so audiences are surprisingly diverse no matter what genre is playing. Subsequently, hands wave in the air constantly, as patrons recognize old friends and catch up on gossip.

The film begins when the last ticket is sold, because the ticket dude is also the projectionist dude (didn't he sell me my popcorn, too?). Then something magical happens, rather, doesn't happen. Missing is that god-awful string of ads you're forced to sit through - ala "A Clockwork Orange" - until you've forgotten what you've come to see. Viva the independent theater!

The Pine Theater is the little theater that could, and does. Next time you find yourself in downtown Prineville with a ten-dollar bill, don't miss the opportunity to take in Crook County's newest old-school pastime. And don't worry about those pesky teenagers that were blamed for the demise of the original Pine Theater. No sign of them yet. However, the marquee advertising the Will Smith action flick "Hancock" mysteriously lost the first three letters of its name.

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