The Tower Theater in Bend, Oregon
Historic Tower Theater in Downtown Bend, Oregon
Bend, Oregon is filled with historic buildings, but none as iconic as the Tower Theater. In the heart of downtown Bend on Wall Street, you'll find the local theater's marquee, restored to its original shining glory. Pick up just about any magazine or brochure that includes a collection of Bend photographs and chances are, you'll find a shot or two of the classic Tower Theater.
Movies are not frequently shown at the Tower, but there is a wide range of community events, plays, exhibitions and more each month. You can also reserve the Tower Theater for conferences, lectures, concerts or even weddings! The only days that the Tower is not available are Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The Tower Theater continues to be an important hub for this community of 80,000 in Central Oregon. In fact, the Tower Theater Foundation website showcases local businesses that support its "Marquee Club," as well as the many local volunteers that help make the Tower Theater "Central Oregon's Center Stage."
History of the Bend Oregon Tower Theater
The Tower Theater was built in 1940, in a mere three months downtown Bend on Wall Street. The landmark tower reaches 40 feet into the sky from the building (78 feet above street level), emblazoned with the name "Tower" which is lights up at night with over 1,200 feet of green and gold neon lights.
After only a few decades of operation, the Tower Theater fell into disrepair and was shuttered. Many blame the rise of multi-plex cinemas for loss of interest in this jewel of downtown Bend.
By the 1990s, the City of Bend purchased the theater and tried to begin restoration of the historic building. In 2001, the City sold the Tower to a group of interested people who formed the Tower Theater Foundation and established it as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Amazingly, the group of 30 people managed to raise over $4.2 million for the Tower Theater's restoration. From 2002-2004, contractors worked to restore the theater to its original splendor, including the addition of a new orchestra pit and box seats. According to the Tower Theater Foundation's website:
DKA Architecture and Design, P.C. and its team of designers worked on the project for three years prior to construction. The team included Candela Theatre consultants and B.R.C. Acoustics, both of Seattle, Washington, Interface Engineering of Salem, Oregon, and W&H Pacific of Bend, Oregon. Foundation board members also brought to the table many talents including an interior design professional, event promoters and community leaders.
Renovation, the foundation's second goal, was begun by Kirby Nagelhout Construction in November of 2002. The project included the expansion of the interior space from 10,432 to 13,630 square feet, an expanded basement to accommodate an orchestra pit with a motorized sypra lift, new box seats, and an expanded lobby area. In addition, the Tower features high quality sound and lighting equipment, a video projection system, and soon, a full 35mm film projection system
Citizens here in Bend, Oregon celebrated the grand re-opening of the Tower Theater in 2004 with a huge community party. Many local businesses that dedicated time, money, materials and more are recognized on plaques mounted in the lobby.
Kathryn Stockett (Author of The Help) Lectures at Tower Theater
Today at the Tower Theater
I've been to the Tower Theater for a variety of events since we moved here in 2006. When I joined the Board of Directors of Bend 2030, we had our first presentation to the community there. My daughter's annual holiday gymnastics performance is always held on stage at the Tower Theater, as well.
One of the more popular local television/radio shows, "Talk of the Town," frequently records its program from the inside of the Tower Theater. Citizens that are interested in the topic can attend in the audience and will have the opportunity to share their opinions through the moderator (this week's topic - leashing dogs!)
Perhaps the biggest draw for the Tower Theater each year is the independent film festival known as BendFilm. According to the official website:
It brings together independent filmmakers and savvy media consumers for a life-enriching experience that educates and entertains. The work of BendFilm has drawn acclaim from both the film industry for its bold support of alternative cinema, and the Central Oregon community for its jammed-pack, four-day event of film viewing, lectures and other special events.
Tourists and film buffs from all over travel to Bend to attend the annual event (if you want more information follow BendFilm on Twitter or Facebook).
Tower Theater Fast Facts
- Renovation completed: 2004
- Total Square Feet: 13,630
- Addition of orchestra pit
- New, state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment
- New video projection system
- New 35mm film projection system
Mailing Address: PO Box 1378, Bend OR 97709
(541) 317-0700 tel
(541) 749-2731 fax
- Hours: Monday through Friday from 10-5, and box office opens 1 hour prior to performances
- You can buy all tickets for shows at the Tower Theater online
How to get to the Tower Theater in Bend, Oregon
© 2010 Stephanie Hicks