Star Theater (Portland, Oregon)

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Star Theater
Star Theater.jpg
The venue's front entrance, 2013
Former namesPrincess Theatre
4 Star Theatre
New Star Theatre
Address13 NW 6th Ave
Portland, Oregon
United States
Venue Website

The Star Theater, formerly known as Princess Theatre and several other names, is a historic former silent film theater in Portland, Oregon, United States. The address was originally 9 Northwest Sixth Avenue, but since 2001 has been 13 Northwest Sixth Avenue. The theater operated as a film theater as well as a burlesque theater and an adult movie theater.


It opened in May 1911 as the Princess Theatre at Sixth and Burnside Street with 300 seats.[1] It was one of many "semi-fireproof picture show[s]" that opened that year in Portland and the first in Downtown Portland to comply with the new fire codes.[1] It was being run by the Sax Amusement Company circa 1923; it became the Star Theater in 1939, but was also known as the Star Burlesk, 4 Star Theater or New Star Theater at various times.[1]

In the 1940s it became a live burlesque theater. Featured dancers included Tempest Storm, Betty Roth as Candy Renee, and Arabella Andre.[2][3] It closed briefly during Dorothy McCullough Lee's mayorship, but reopened in 1953.[3] Jim Purcell, Portland's Chief of Police, was a regular at the Star Theater and was especially interested in Candy Renee.[2][4]

In the late 1960s, the Star Theater became an adult theater which showed erotic movies and also had strippers on stage. In the 1970s the Star Theater experimented with presenting everything from underground and classic comedy films to controversial "live sex shows". Eventually the Star Theater went back to the somewhat less controversial adult movies and live strippers. In the period of 1979–1983 one of the strippers at the Star Theater was a teenage Courtney Love. The Star Theater was closed in 1985.[1]

The Star Theater was the business in question in the landmark City of Portland v. Tidyman Oregon Supreme Court ruling handed down by Oregon Supreme Court Justice Hans A. Linde in 1988 (long after the incident(s) in question happened in 1979), which helped establish the State of Oregon's strong free speech protections, possibly the strongest free speech protections in the U.S.[citation needed] This ruling eventually led to an abundance of strip clubs and live nude entertainment in and around the city of Portland, now known around the country as having "the most strip clubs per capita" of any city in the U.S.[citation needed]

The property was owned for several years by Portland film director Gus Van Sant. Van Sant sold it to "embattled restaurateur" Andrew Sugar in 2001.[5][6] Sugar opened Vivid, a restaurant/nightclub in September 2002, it became Level by 2004 and the business was sold and closed in 2008.[citation needed]

The theater briefly re-opened as another nightclub called Five Star Theater, held some shows in October 2008,[7] but then was shut down again on September 27, 2009 by the Portland Police Bureau and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for selling alcohol without a liquor license and violating building codes.[8] Local news outlet KATU described Five Star as a modern speakeasy.[8]

As of 2011, the theater seating and original interior have been removed.[1] The upper two-thirds of the exterior facade is almost completely original except for the marquee and sign, but the lower third was completely covered over in the 2001 remodel.[citation needed]

In February 2011, the owners of Dante's took possession of the business and began to remodel and restore the theater into a live music and performance space. The old neon marquee sign was rebuilt in August 2011 in time for the 100th anniversary of the building.[citation needed]

Further reading[edit]

  • Stanford, Phil (2004). Portland Confidential. Westwinds Press. ISBN 1-55868-793-9.


  1. ^ a b c d e Lacher, Gary; Steve Stone (2009-06-15). Theatres of Portland. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-7385-7147-8.
  2. ^ a b "A short history of Portland". Portland Tribune. 10 August 2001. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  3. ^ a b Time Inc (1953-11-30). "LIFE". Time Inc: 67.
  4. ^ Stanford, Phil (24 October 2006). "On the Town". Portland Tribune. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  5. ^ Bancud, Michaela (30 December 2003). "What's Your PDQ? (Portland Detail Quotient)". Portland Tribune. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  6. ^ Stanford, Phil (6 July 2001). "The big fella was wearing camouflage". Portland Tribune. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Five Star Theatre – Past Events". Portland Mercury. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Police raid downtown speakeasy, confiscate kegs". KATU. Retrieved 2 March 2011.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°31′25″N 122°40′35″W / 45.52361°N 122.67639°W / 45.52361; -122.67639