Brand Story – How a novel concept in Southeast Portland has transformed moviegoing.
Part movie theater, part restaurant, part cultural center, Studio One Theaters in Southeast Portland delivers a sensory entertainment experience all its own. By sticking to its novel vision, the team emerged from the pandemic ready to expand—confident in its purpose of providing a space for community, connection and escapism.
“Studio One is a gathering place, a community space where people can connect and have a staycation within the city. It’s an escape from reality and the challenges of life, where we take care of every detail,” explains creator and owner Shelly Stevens.
Studio One opened in 2018 with a unique concept that lives on today: a movie theater with themed rooms and world-class cuisine inspired by Stevens’s love of travel. Each space, designed like a penthouse with a skyline view, features authentic furniture and music, teleporting visitors to Istanbul, Tokyo, New York, Rio and Paris.
Stevens designed nearly all of the furniture, testing each piece to make sure its comfort level held up for a three-hour movie while remaining practical for dining, a core pillar of the Studio One experience.
Meals can be enjoyed in the viewing rooms or in the separate bar and restaurant, where Studio One’s chef brings local ingredients to craft nightly specials that make the cuisine a stand-alone experience. In fact, some patrons skip the movie and just come for the live music and dinner, the jazz brunches or the popular Monday night karaoke.
“We have a lot of really special meals. We’re very intentional about our proteins, and we use our imagination to come up with fun things for people to experience outside of the movies,” Stevens elaborates. “I’m a foodie, so I love to taste many different things in a meal. The food is always going to be fantastic.”
Patrons can expect to find international bite boards, perfectly cooked steak, Newman’s Fish seafood fresh from the water, a massive wine selection and a full craft cocktail menu.
In the restaurant and bar area, a high-end sound system facilitates a range of happenings, from tiny desk mini concerts to cultural celebrations to private events.
Its auditoriums, which feature 18-63-person capacities, host corporate events, family birthday celebrations and everything in between. The experience comes complete with customized menus and on-screen projections.
In large part, it is Studio One’s success as an event space that allowed the business to emerge from the pandemic ready to expand.
“It was a nailbiter. We were able to open before movie theaters because we’re a restaurant first, but the takeout thing didn’t work because that’s not our model,” Stevens recalls. “Private events really worked because people were stuck in the house and ready to connect and have a dining and entertainment experience with their bubble.”
During this unpredictable time, Studio One’s partnership with Comcast Business, its technology solutions provider, grew stronger and more crucial. Comcast Business services Studio One’s phones, security cameras and internet. Knowing the toll that the pandemic was taking on its clients, the Comcast Business team made it a point to be available 24/7.
“Since the pandemic, we’ve gotten to know each other as people, and I really feel taken care of by them,” Stevens notes. “They’re so attentive and interested in making us successful. I can call our personal business rep and explain what is going on with our phones and internet and he can be our go-between to get it fixed.”
Despite the challenges brought on by 2020 and the years that followed, Studio One used that chapter as an opportunity to perfect the event hosting side of its business, which continues to grow. Its partnerships with vendors, like Ilegal Mezcal or Westward Whiskey, have led to large-scale parties and special tasting dinners.
A serial entrepreneur like Stevens knows the importance of agility, but also of staying true to a vision.
“Our best decision was sticking with our vision and what’s at the heart of all this: connection and community,” Stevens says. “For me, that’s what feeds my soul the most. Connecting with staff, providing a place for community to feel connected, supporting diverse art forms…”
Studio One’s commitment to diversity shines through in its event calendar, which features capoeira and Brazilian performances, Cuban dancing, and Puerto Rican, Mexican, blues and jazz music. Whether through a space, a job or an experience, Studio One promises to do whatever it can to help diversity happen.
Stevens, who is always looking for ways to spotlight artists, implores local performers and creatives to reach out.
As it looks to expand, Studio One will continue bringing the world to Portland, providing a platform to celebrate global cuisine, music, cinema and culture. It delivers the type of staycation that became even more cherished when COVID left the city homebound.
“We get caught up in the worry of tomorrow and what happened yesterday. It’s hard to be present, so I see what we’re doing as being important to people’s mental health and wellness,” Stevens concludes. “You can make a whole night of it and don’t have to think of anything besides showing up. There’s really nothing like it as far as experience.”
Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues. The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.