The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Paul Turner Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

June 24, 2015


“A Visit to The Darkside”  June 24, 2015  Location: Darkside Cinema, Corvallis, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Turner provides an uncensored view of his career as a theater operator and of his perspectives as an independent businessman.

The session begins with an overview of Turner's upbringing and family background, an exploration of the importance that film played to him as a child, and a discussion of his first job in movies, working as an assistant at the Woodburn (Oregon) Drive-In and as a projectionist at an indoor theater also located in Woodburn. From there he describes his decade-long management of the Kuhn Cinema in Lebanon, Oregon, and his decision to return to school during this time period. In this, he notes important professors who made an impact on him during his stints as a student at Chemeketa Community College and at Linn-Benton Community College, and also details his work as a student newspaper journalist at the LBCC Commuter.

Turner next recounts the story behind his transfer to Oregon State University, which arose primarily out of his writing and editing at The Commuter. Reflecting on his OSU experience, Turner focuses on his pursuits as a member of the Daily Barometer staff and on the development of his friendship with Film Studies professor Jon Lewis. Turner also shares his memories of film culture in Corvallis in the mid-1990s, and speaks particularly of the fates that befell The State Theatre, The Whiteside Theatre, and OSU's International Film Series.

The session then turns its attention to its primary focus, the founding and evolution of The Avalon Cinema and the Darkside Cinema. Turner describes the germ of the idea for The Avalon, the renovations that were required prior to its opening, and the role that Jon Lewis played as a film booker during the theater's first years. He then outlines the economic forces that compelled him to open the Darkside Cinema and details that work that went into making the Darkside a reality. He likewise shares his thoughts on the craft of film projection - noting several humorous moments that have occurred in the projectionist's booth - as well as his perspective on the impact made by the film industry's shift to digital content, and the Kickstarter campaign that helped keep the Darkside afloat amidst this sea change in content delivery.

As the interview nears its end, Turner provides his characterization of the downtown business community in Corvallis. The session concludes with Turner's thoughts on the future of the Darkside.