An airport might not be the first place you’d associate with a custom movie theatre boating some of the best tech around, but due to the efforts of Doug Whyte, executive director of Portland’s Hollywood Theatre, Steve Colburn, who handles product development and training for Triad Speakers, and CEDIA chairperson (and president of his own firm, The Erskine Group), Dennis Erskine, Oregon Airport now boasts just that.

A few years ago, Doug saw a news story in the New York Times regarding the Hong Kong airport’s new movie theatre. This gave him the idea to pitch this idea to his local airport, and after finding a suitable space, he began to write the grant applications, intending it to be “a modest, little non-profit thing”.

However, Doug says that Steve had other ideas, who wondered if his CEDIA peers would consider lending their time, expertise and even equipment – at no charge.

It turns out, they would: the 17-seat cinema was built using volunteer hours and donated equipment from members of the CEDIA channel.

“This was an opportunity to show the public what our CEDIA channel members and professional can bring to the table,” says Dennis. “Doug had the vision of the cinema being an adapted version of Portland’s Hollywood Theatre. The theatre would run a constant hour-long program of shorts produced by filmmakers from Oregon. When he started thinking about the theatre he was looking at a $1,000 sound system and an LED screen. Because of the generous contributions of CEDIA members, we were able to deliver something much better that exceeded his expectations.”

Indeed, the cinema includes a Barco projector, Crestron control, processing and amplification, a Stewart Filmscreen screen and a Triad Speakers surround system.

That’s not to say the install was without its issues. Portland is in an earthquake zone, meaning the concrete surface on the concourse is a floating floor that moves. Understandably, this is not an ideal environment for a projector. “It was bouncing up and down as much as two inches,” Dennis recalls.

“Unless you were watching The Blair Witch Project, the look wasn’t desirable,” jokes Casey Smith, a project engineer at Lewis AV, which integrated the technology, with calibration from REAL AV.

Lewis AV worked out a way to decouple the projector from the vibrations by suspending it from the actual ceiling structure. The rest of the issue was resolved with isolation springs and brackets, including custom parts built by Triad.

The next issue was due to sound isolation, in that there could be none.

“There can be no sound isolation,” Dennis confirms. “Part of the reason is when the sirens go off and TSA wants everybody to evacuate, you have to be able to hear what’s happening and get out quickly. To ease traffic flow, the room has no doors, but the design of the entries – along with a Barco projector and a Stewart Filmscreen that rejects ambient light – created an image that was outstanding. Since we had limited space, a dark room and compliance to ADA, we did have raised seating platforms which created challenges achieving proper viewing angles and a clear line of sight from every seat.”

Added to that, since this custom theatre is in a secure part of the airport, every connector, every cable – everything had to be screened by the TSA. After putting the pieces from Dennis’ manufacturing plant in Atlanta on trucks and shipping them to Oregon, Erskine’s work was subject to security checks. “Imagine us wheeling our pre-fabricated walls into the building – every inch of them had to be inspected by the TSA,” says Dennis.

“It’s not just getting gear in and out, it’s tough getting tools in and out,” Casey adds. “Anything that’s a run to the hardware store? That proposition became a four-hour turnaround.”

Despite the challenging install environment, Dennis is pleased to say that the CEDIA team exceeded his expectations and that the room has had a great reception from the traveling public. “My favourite part of the install – and really for every installation – is the smiles on the faces of the clients, and in this case, the smiles from Airport Authority stake-holders and the travellers visiting the room.

The cinema is open now and runs a constant, hour-long program of shorts running under 10 minutes long, which have to be produced by filmmakers in the state.

“It’s a stipulation of the grants we received,” Doug explains. “Content runs the gamut, from short documentaries to live-action fiction and animated films.”

Doug also added that he still can’t quite believe what the team has pulled off: “That fateful day when Steve approached me in front of the Hollywood to talk to me about it – I didn’t know what that was going to mean. Seriously, we were looking at this thousand-dollar sound system that we might get and a big LED screen; it’s so far beyond that. I could have never imagined that it would be this nice.”

“The Hollywood Theatre at Portland Airport is a truly unique project and we wanted to make sure it had best-in-class technology,” comments Ron Fleming, VP of business development at CEDIA. “We are grateful to all of our technology partners for their gracious donations to the project.”


Kit List


  • Access Networks – network system
  • Barco – projector
  • Crestron – processor, amplifiers and control system
  • Flir – security cameras and monitoring equipment
  • Erskine Group – design and interior construction
  • Lewis AV – installation
  • Middle Atlantic – ERK series rack and IsoCenter power solution
  • Milestone AV Technologies – projector mounting hardware
  • MM Innovations – security hardware and setup
  • Planar – digital displays and media servers
  • Real AV – Audio/Video calibration and QSC DSP for audio calibration, Crestron programming
  • Stewart Filmscreen – screen
  • Triad Speakers – surround system, equipment coordination
  • Wire World – wiring and cable
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