Brian's Photo Blog — Article 633
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Star Wars at McMenamins Bagdad Theater
Thursday 9 March 2017   —   Category: Outings
As I explained when I first began my McMenamins Passport adventure, when collecting the 100 “location stamps” you generally don’t need to make a purchase to get a stamp. But there are a handful of exceptions. At the Crystal Ballroom and its little sister, Lola’s Room, as well as at the Bagdad Theater and Mission Theater, you have to buy a ticket in order to get a stamp. Well, 4 out of 100 isn’t too bad!

There is a cheap way to get the first two of these stamps. Simply take the (mostly) daily 2:00 PM tour of the Crys­tal Ballroom complex in downtown Portland, and you can get the Ballroom and Lola’s Room stamps for free. I did that in October 2016, as you can read about in Ex­plor­ing the McMenamins Crystal Blocks. In addition, ac­cord­ing to the official Passport rules, it might be possible to attend free events at these four venues in order to get the stamps.

Now I had narrowed it down to only two movie tickets to purchase. The problem is, I don’t particularly like mov­ies, mostly because they are too violent or too im­mor­al, or both. So it is a rare movie that I would want to see in a theater — especially when I would have to drive 90 minutes to Portland to see the movie for a Passport stamp.

Fortunately, the Sequel Trilogy and An­thol­o­gy Star Wars soft reboots are bring­ing some movies to the silver screen which I would actually be eager to see. I’ve been a huge science fiction fan since childhood, and Star Wars has been part of my psyche since I saw Episode IV back in 1977 — hey, 40 years ago this year!

Recently I have posted a couple of ar­ti­cles recounting how I went with my young-​adult son to see Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens at McMenamins Grand Lodge and Star Wars: Rogue One at Mc­Men­a­mins Edgefield. Both movies were great, but I liked Rogue One a bit better. Neither of those theaters require a ticket purchase in order to get a lo­ca­tion stamp.

During January 2017 I had been hoping to see Rogue One again at the Bagdad Theater after a visit to the Japanese Gar­den, but snowy weather foiled my plans. Later in the month I was checking show dates and times at the Bagdad when I discovered, to my consternation, that that very day was the last day Rogue One would be at the Bagdad. In addition, it was National Popcorn Day, which is a great day to go to the theater and enjoy a bag (or more!) of that quintessential American delicacy.

In light of all this, I decided to make a special trip to Portland that day. Because I had business in Silverton that af­ter­noon, I aimed for the 7:00 PM showing. Instead of the usual route from Albany north on the I-5, I took backroads to Sil­ver­ton, and then more backroads to South­east Portland’s Haw­thorne District via Or­e­gon City.

By the time I arrived at 6:00 it was al­ready dark — life in Jan­u­ary in the Pa­cif­ic North­west. Parking was a challenge because SE Hawthorne Boulevard was packed out, and the surrounding area is narrow residential streets, but I managed to find a spot a few blocks away.
Once inside the historic theater (built 1927), I spent some time ad­mir­ing and photographing the old-​fashioned Med­i­ter­ra­ne­an / Mid­dle-​East­ern décor.

I’m sure that when the place is crowded it feels more alive, but when I was there the quietness and handful of people made it seem like an ancient sacred temple. I walked around in silence and awe. This would be a great place to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark!
Because the Bagdad Theater is also a pub, the concession stand has a fairly-​extensive menu, plus a wide selection of beer, hard cider, wine and spirits. Most of the res­tau­rant-​like dishes can be or­dered only if you sit in the balcony, but they will bring your food to you up there.

There is an even wider menu selection if you choose to eat in the pub section of the building rather than in the theater itself.
The cavernous theater room is just as impressive as the rest of the building. Rows of large, illuminated columns on the side walls help uphold the ancient-​sacred-​temple feeling.

To the right is a shot I took from the upper end of the balcony. Be sure to click on it to see a larger version.
In celebration of National Popcorn Day, and because I simply love popcorn, I made sure to get a bag of the but­tery, scrumptious stuff!

I sat in the front row of the balcony, where I perched my popcorn and Hammerhead beer close to the edge of the drop-​off to the seats below. I wonder if any food or drink ever goes over the edge!

It was quite dark inside, so I had to crank up the ISO setting on my camera to 6,400 for most of the shots, and 8,000 for these two food photos. The quality suffered a bit, but I’m still quite happy with the low-​light performance of the Olympus OM-D E-M5.
I also had their hummus plate — with as­sort­ed raw and pickled veggies, cubes of feta cheese and triangles of pita bread. This is a good meal to have during a movie, because it doesn’t get cold and it lasts a long time.

Because I actually don’t care that much for hummus, I had brought along a tiny 1/8 oz bottle (3/4 teaspoon, 3.4ml) of Ta­bas­co sauce to help cover up the bean taste — I used the entire bottle!
As I alluded to above, the theater is not the only venue in the Bagdad Theater and Pub building. Because I visited only the theater portion, I am planning on returning later this year for a mini pub crawl so I can enjoy food and drink, and get my Passport stamps, at the Bagdad Theater Pub, the Back Stage Bar and the Greater Trumps bar.

I took a total of 27 pictures at the theater; the best 11 now have a home in the new McMenamins Bagdad 2017 album. Future photos from my next visit will be added to this collection.
For more tales about other locations, see My McMenamins Passport Adventure.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 633
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