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The buildings that house Salem’s culture

The buildings that house Salem’s culture

Next time you overhear someone whining about how boring Salem is and how there’s nothing to do, spread the word about one of this town’s great venues.

The beautifully restored Elsinore Theatre won first place in the Best Theater and Best Movie Theater categories.

“It is the most elegant theater we have and the most historic theater. We have a combination of musicals, dramatic plays and film series,” says Roger Yost, president of the Elsinore’s board.

Elsinore was originally built as a movie theater during the roaring Twenties, when silent films were accompanied by an organ during suspenseful moments, and they still are at Elsinore.

“Elsinore gives our neighbors an opportunity to see first class entertainment that doesn’t require them to go to Portland, New York or San Francisco,” says Yost.

Right behind Elsinore in the Best Theater category were the Pentacle Theatre and Capitol City Theater. The Pentacle is a community theater featuring plays by volunteer actors. Their next show, The Sound of Music, is already sold out. Capitol City Theater is a new business specializing in stand-up comedy. Owner Chip Conrad felt honored to receive the award. “We appreciate the voters, we’re here for them, to give the public what they want! When you work so hard and the public recognizes it, it’s a great honor,” says Conrad, whose theater also won first place for Best New Business. As far as movies go, the runner ups were Northern Lights Theatre Pub, which features $3 movies accompanied by food and beer, and Salem Cinema, where people can find the most original movies, anywhere from artsy and foreign films to politically-charged documentaries.

Smith Auditorium took the prize for “Best Live Music Venue”. Located in the Smith Fine Arts Complex at Willamette University, Smith Auditorium can hold up to 1,230 people. The venue hosts Oregon Symphony Concerts – the next one is January 14th – and many other large scale events. Second place went to the Wasteland, known for its heavy metal and punk shows, although owner Jared Sheridan is increasingly adding other genres to cater to all crowds. Finally, voters didn’t forget about the now deceased The Space. The Space opened February 15, 2008 and closed recently.

“The day before we opened was Oregon’s birthday. This is significant because the stars crossed and we were able to do it,” says Doug Hoffman of The Space. The venue showcased local, original music tied in with touring bands. During its short lifespan, The Space hosted bands from fifteen different countries.

“One of my favorite things about The Space was giving the customer, the local listener, the opportunity to see something from a foreign country, sometimes an entire world section of music they never even thought of. If only one person was changed like that per night, that’s enough for me,” says Hoffman, who is now the sound engineer at the Grand Theater. He is currently raising money to open the next Space in Salem, which he hopes will be for all ages, serving drinkers as well as minors. There is no time frame for the venue, but Hoffman assures, “It will happen.”

Hoffman has a website,, where donors can contribute to his cause, and he’s selling t-shirts and stickers at benefit shows around town. The next one will take place January 29th at Cafe Noir, with the Buttfrenchers, a classic Salem band featuring surf punk, Bottle Rocket (pop rock) and the Fools, Hoffman’s favorite band, besides his own new project, Monoplane. “I would call them Blues murder. They’re definitely gonna make a mark in PDX,” says Hoffman.

Best live music venue

First place: Smith Auditorium

900 State St.

Second place: Wasteland

730 Front St.


Third place: The Space

Rest in Peace.

Best movie theatre

First place: Elsinore Theatre

170 High St. SE


Second place: Northern Lights Theatre Pub

3893 Commercial St. SE


Third place: Salem Cinema

1127 Broadway St. NE # 170


Best theater

First place: Elsinore Theater

170 High St. SE


Second place: Pentacle Theatre

145 Liberty St. NE


Third place: Capital City Theater

189 Liberty St. NE


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