|Coltman: "As a lawyer I learned the
research tools that guided me
through [the] process" of opening
the high-end Cinetopia movie theater.
As a business lawyer in Baker City, Rudyard Coltman learned a thing or two that served him well when he developed a unique entertainment venue called Cinetopia in Vancouver, Wash.
"I had several clients who owned small and medium-sized businesses. My orientation has always been toward advising businesses in one way or another, whether it was the formation of a company or the dissolution of one," says Coltman, 37. "Really, your experience as a lawyer is a natural bridge into business if you’ve been practicing that kind of law."
Coltman’s interest in politics and the news led him to pursue a double major in political science and history at the University of Oregon. While earning his law degree there, he interned with Albert Radcliffe, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Eugene. After graduation in 1996, while looking for a place to establish his practice, Coltman chose Baker City because its ratio of residents to attorneys increased the likelihood of success. During his nine years of practice there, he studied the art of the deal.
"I feel I was much more adequately equipped to deal with the negotiations involved in Cinetopia because of my legal background," he says.
The $10-million development involved a dizzying array of negotiations from contracts to purchase the land and design and build Cinetopia to agreements with film companies and employees. Coltman says the research skills he honed as a lawyer were especially crucial.
"For about three years I wrote ideas in a journal. No matter how wild it was I wrote it down, and then I researched the ideas to figure out what was feasible and what wasn’t," he says. "As a lawyer I learned the research tools that guided me through that process."
The creative journey gave rise to an entertainment complex that features an eight-screen movie theater, a high-end restaurant, a wine bar and an art gallery. Located near Interstate 205 and Mill Plain Boulevard, Cinetopia opened in late July and has received rave reviews for adding luxury to one of America’s favorite pastimes.
"My family has always been passionate about movies. I was a really odd kid because at 11 I was watching not only ‘Star Wars’ but also Ingmar Bergman films," he says. "Movie theaters, in my opinion, have moved away from the experience. It’s gone from the art deco theaters that were around when we were younger to more of a sterile box."
Cinetopia is designed to recapture that sense of experience, from wider chairs made of imported Japanese leather to the matching footrests that allow movie-goers to recline slightly while watching a film. Advanced technology enhances the look and sound of the films at Cinetopia, and one theater boasts the region’s only digital high-definition projector and a 50-foot screen. Even the theater’s concession stand is high-end, featuring gourmet snacks such as popcorn with homemade almond or garlic butter, potstickers, stuffed bell peppers, lasagna and fresh baked goodies alongside more traditional treats. A lobby full of artwork, a restaurant menu created by a four-star chef and a wine bar with 105 selections add to the ambiance.
"I wanted a design that felt more like an art gallery or a performing arts center rather than an arcade, which is what I feel the large corporate, chain movie theaters feel like," Coltman says.
The development also gave Coltman, whose grandfather was a patent attorney in Chicago, a chance to create a few inventions of his own. He devised a plastic tray that clips into the armrests of the theater seats so people have a stable surface for their food. He invented Cinetopia’s "living room theater," which offers live music from a performance balcony before evening shows and a pit filled with throw pillows that serves as a lounging spot. Coltman also created a web-based intranet that allows guests to look at movie listings, the restaurant’s menu and the wines available for tasting.
The concept for Cinetopia was born while Coltman was specializing in bankruptcy law, business transactions and estate planning at Baker City’s Yervasi & Coltman, now called Yervasi Pope. In 1997, he bought the Eltrym Theater in Baker City and modernized it while keeping its historic character.
"From that point on, I’d had this dream to open a larger theater in a more metropolitan area," he says.
Coltman, who now lives in Portland with his wife, Geanna, and two children, picked Vancouver as the location for Cinetopia because of its fast-growing population and lack of high-end dining and movie venues. He hopes to expand the Cinetopia concept into Portland and has taken a sabbatical from his law practice to further the venture. However, he hopes to serve the legal community from a different perspective.
"Our conferencing abilities here are awesome. We have the ultimate CLE or luncheon space," he says.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melody Finnemore is a Portland-based freelance writer.
© Melody Finnemore