The Show Goes On: Inland Electric Renovates Oregon's Times Theatre

Times Theatre and Public House has undergone a full renovation that preserves its Art-Deco-origins. Photo Credit: Inland Electric
Times Theatre and Public House has undergone a full renovation that preserves its Art-Deco-origins. Photo Credit: Inland Electric

Almost 70 years after it first opened, the Times Theatre in Seaside, Ore., has gained a new life with its Art-Deco-style movie theater and a more 21st-century enterprise, a brewery and restaurant. Renovation of the Times Theatre and Public House, which had stood empty for decades, features a blend of pre-World War II era design with today’s technology.

Inland Electric, Hillsboro, Ore., provided the electric construction that enables current technology to work seamlessly behind the curved walls and historic fixtures of times gone by. The project took place last year and has transformed what was an empty historic building to an active public attraction that serves hundreds of moviegoers, along with beer lovers, sports enthusiasts and diners daily.

In addition to electric service and lighting, Inland installed the theater’s state-of-the-art Wi-Fi network, IP camera system for security and access control. Inland electricians wired LED lighting that would be used in the traditional fixtures, and connected digital sound and power for movie projection.

The Times Theatre dates back to the early days of Seaside. It was constructed in the 1930s and opened in 1940 with one of the state’s earliest big screens, as well as a stage for live performances. The theater presented such movies as “Gone with the Wind,” live pony rides and choral concerts.

The building itself is a concrete rectangle about 60 by 90 feet, with a floor-to-ceiling height of about 35 feet. Inside, some distinctive features give it a unique appearance. Its interior walls curve in a series of Art-Deco-style waves toward the big screen, for both acoustics and aesthetics. Of course, at the time it was built, the electric installation was a simpler proposition, predating low-voltage demands and HVAC features.

Times Theatre and Public House. Photo Credit: Inland Electric
Times Theatre and Public House. Photo Credit: Inland Electric

The building fell on hard times in the 1980s. The last film shown was “Parenthood,” followed by several decades of disuse. In fact, the building stood vacant until a year ago. TD&M Enterprises, a downtown entity representing local businesses, opted to restore and reopen it with features that would meet the needs of a 21st-century audience: a smaller theater with larger, more comfortable seating, and a space for a brewery and pub.

Quackenbush Builders undertook the construction. Inland has managed historical projects similar to the Times Theatre, including a museum, a hotel and preserving original architecture in the train station in neighboring Astoria, said Brent Boles, Inland Electric project manager. The 19th-century buildings of Seaside and Astoria have been largely preserved to enable today’s visitors to see them the way they were.

So from the beginning, TD&M knew it wanted to preserve Times Theatre’s curved walls and historic 1930s-era lighting fixtures. The interior is built with old-growth timber, and no one wanted to disrupt or replace those beams and framework. Lauri Benjamin, Inland Electric owner and president, said the challenge was to hide all of the electric system’s modern features behind the existing walls and ceilings.

Planning began in April 2017. The team designed new infrastructure all the way from the power service on the street. They worked the old-fashioned way, with blueprints, said Vince Berg, project coordinator and director of brewing operations for TD&M Enterprises.

There was no working electrical system in the building except for limited service to the projection room. Forced to start from scratch, the electrical installation was challenging.

“We were brought on board to do the electric design and installation,” Benjamin said. In fact, the only thing the company didn’t install completely was the projection equipment, which a third party provided. However, Inland installed the power supply for that equipment.

The main brewery equipment is  behind the stage. Photo Credit: Inland Electric
The main brewery equipment is  behind the stage. Photo Credit: Inland Electric

Cables in hiding

Both HVAC and electric installations posed aesthetic problems for the building, Berg said. Mark Mead, of Mead Engineering, wrote the plans for mechanical and electrical installations that would enable HVAC and venting to be installed, along with low- and high-voltage electric, without being visible.

That meant the electrical installation not only had to be done without opening the walls, but it also needed to be hidden along with HVAC equipment.

“We had to create a lot of alternative paths for cable, find ways around things, and sometimes that meant crawling into spaces,” Inland PM Boles said, finding ways to fish wire through openings in walls without doing any damage.

However, cutting was necessary in some cases. Simply getting equipment inside where the work was being done posed some challenges as well.

“We had to take out massive chunks of concrete to get the equipment in,” Berg said.

As the team got behind the walls to see the space they had to work with, there were numerous change orders.

Inland Electric needed to build for an entirely new kind of business to accommodate the theater and the restaurant and brewery that shared the space.

“We were taking two business ideas—theater and fully functioning brewery, tanks and boiler,” Boles said. “We had to make that fit and, of course, make it look good and work properly. The challenge kept coming back to the primary problem: ‘How do we fit this much stuff into this little building?’”

Customers can eat in the Public House or the theater. Photo Credit: Inland Electric
Customers can eat in the Public House or the theater. Photo Credit: Inland Electric

Bringing brews to moviegoers

The building’s first floor includes the stage and brewery operation (also integrated throughout the theater) with the main brewing equipment behind the stage. When the retractable screen is pulled back during live shows, the brewing equipment serves as a backdrop to stage performance.

That equipment consists of six beer fermenters and lager tanks, while a mechanical room houses the necessary equipment to power the brewery from the floor above. Also on the first floor are a kitchen and beer taps for the full restaurant and bar.

They also retained an historic concession stand with the kitchen. Customers can order food and drink and eat in the theater seats or other dining spaces. The bar has six TVs.

When Inland Electric began the project, there was limited electrical service to the projection room, but nothing else in the building. Photo Credit: Inland Electric
When Inland Electric began the project, there was limited electrical service to the projection room, but nothing else in the building. Photo Credit: Inland Electric

Theater renovation and upgrades

While the new business still shows movies, it needed to make some changes for today’s audiences, starting with the original furniture. Originally, the theater had a seating capacity of 648. Today there are fewer seats in a smaller area, but the seats themselves are larger, as today’s audience members are bigger than their 1940s predecessors.

A secondary staircase was built to enable people to walk back from the mezzanine to the exit. LED tape is installed on the stair treads to create additional lighting.

Inland also installed color-changing LED tape on the interior glass-block windows, which glow on the outside of the building.

The company further installed electric service to a restored version of the marquee signage in front of the theatre, giving it a historic look from the street.

Before complete service could be turned on, the renovation of fixtures and other aesthetic components required scheduling among numerous parties.

The walls also include some carpeting to improve the audio experience. Inland worked closely with the carpet provider so the fixtures could be installed outside the carpet at the right depth.

Walls in the theater curve in a series of Art-Deco-style waves for both acoustics and aesthetics. Photo Credit: Inland Electric
Walls in the theater curve in a series of Art-Deco-style waves for both acoustics and aesthetics. Photo Credit: Inland Electric

Altogether, the project includes low-voltage wireless access points, IP-based cameras, security wireless access points and 20,000 feet of Cat 6 cable, 10,000 feet of speaker cable and 6,000 feet of security cable. The main electrical service is 1,000-ampere, 120-208 volts. Inland pulled about 5,000 feet of feeder cable to the system, about 20,000 feet of steel conduit, and 15,000 feet of metal-clad cable.

The lighting includes 80 fixtures in the theater and 40 surface-mounted fixtures throughout the rest of the building, and 300 feet of color-changing, tunable LED tape.

Today, the building is a popular destination for families. The space is designed so the public house and movie theater are not disruptive to each other, even when they are both in use at the same time.

“A lot of thought went into this,” Berg said.

Opened for business in fall 2018, Berg said the building retains enough of the early movie theater style to fit the historic theme of the city.

For many of the building crew members and community, nostalgia plays a role. The project was a matter of revisiting the historic Seaside of their youth. Boles recalled that he saw his first movie, Disney’s “Bambi,” there in 1979. Even then, though, the theater had been a focal point in the town. He remembers lines of moviegoers wrapping around the block.

“It still feels very similar to what that theater felt like then,” he said, only improved, because by the time he was old enough to see movies, the building had become dilapidated.

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.