Landmark movie theaters make triumphant returns


The Liberty in Camas and Kiggins in Vancouver reopen after being closed for seven months

The Liberty Theatre first opened in Camas in 1927.

Kiggins Theatre first opened in Vancouver in 1936.

After shutting down during the pandemic, the two landmark movie theaters are celebrating each other’s return.

Liberty came back with “The Goonies” and “The Empire Strikes Back” the weekend of Oct. 9. Kiggins made it back this past weekend with, among other films, “Back to the Future.”

The historic Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver reopened this weekend with a showing of Back to the Future. Photo by Paul Valencia
The historic Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver reopened this weekend with a showing of Back to the Future. Photo by Paul Valencia

The theaters are at 25-percent capacity, and movie-goers are required to buy their tickets online. 

Through the first week or so, the owners at both theaters are pleased with the response for their customers.

In fact, Liberty Theater owner Rand Thornsley was so thrilled to hear about Kiggins coming back that he gave Kiggins a shout-out on Liberty’s social media accounts.

“The two historic theaters in Clark County have got to stick together,” Thornsley said. “They are important to our own communities. We feel it is in all of our best interests to stick together and get through these tough times.”

Dan Wyatt, owner of Kiggins, agreed.

“Us indie guys have to stick together,” he said.

The Liberty Theatre in Camas reopened Oct. 9 with showings of The Goonies and The Empire Strikes Back.
The Liberty Theatre in Camas reopened Oct. 9 with showings of The Goonies and The Empire Strikes Back.

Thornsley said Wyatt was instrumental in convincing the powers-that-be that movie theaters could be safe during these trying times. Wyatt said it was more of a team effort with a number of theater owners across the state.

Either way, both theaters had plans and then executed them during their opening weekends.

At Liberty, there were three “sold out” shows for The Goonies and one for The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, sold out nowadays is 75 rather than 300. 

At Kiggins, 83 is the maximum number of moviegoers in the theater at once. But with social distancing rules, Wyatt said, that is more of a “theoretical number.” Still, he was pleased to have more than 60 people at his location for the Back to the Future showings.

“In short, it went really well,” Wyatt said, noting the layers of safety protocols. “I think everybody had a great time despite the new procedures.”

Kiggins Theatre owner Dan Wyatt, as Doc Brown, and his son Tucker, as Marty McFly, welcomed movie goers to the reopening of Kiggins Theater. Rumor has it Doc Brown will return this weekend with Back to the Future Part II. Photo courtesy Dan Wyatt
Kiggins Theatre owner Dan Wyatt, as Doc Brown, and his son Tucker, as Marty McFly, welcomed movie goers to the reopening of Kiggins Theater. Rumor has it Doc Brown will return this weekend with Back to the Future Part II. Photo courtesy Dan Wyatt

At Kiggins, there are separate lines for people entering just to see the movie, for people who want concessions, too, and another line for the restrooms. 

Both theaters are emphasizing the need for customers to buy their tickets online for reserved seating.

Groups can sit together, and there will be space between all groups.

At the Liberty, for example, once a transaction is closed by a ticket-buyer, three seats on either side of that group are closed off by the computer. 

“You are in your own bubble. You’ve got all that spacing. We feel it’s a very safe way of doing it,” Thornsley said.

“The system does a great job of spreading people out,” he added.

Both theaters also note that masks must be worn except for when eating or drinking.

Whatever works to be open, though.

Battle Ground Cinema and the two AMC theaters in Vancouver are also open with limited capacity and pandemic rules. Regal Cinemas are still closed. 

For those that are open, a weight has been lifted off the shoulders of the owners.

“It’s relieving,” Wyatt said. “We were closed seven months to the day.”

Wyatt celebrated with his favorite movie. And he welcomed Doc Brown and Marty McFly, who might have been played by Wyatt and his son Tucker. Or maybe those really were Doc and Marty?

That is the magic of movies. 

The magic is back.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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