Preservationists Trying to Save Scottsdale's Harkins Camelview 5 Theater from Possible Demolition
Scottsdale's Harkins Camelview 5, one of the longest-running movie theaters in Arizona, has been screening indie and art house flicks for a few decades now. And if a group of local historic preservationists, architecture aficionados, and longtime patrons have their way, it will keep doing so for years to come.
Benjamin Leatherman The Harkins Camelview 5 theater in Scottsdale.
News broke earlier this month that the historic cinema, which first opened in 1973 and is situated next door to Scottsdale Fashion Square, might possibly be closed and demolished next year as a part of a proposed expansion of the upscale Camelback Road mall. It's a fate, however, that Valley architecture expert and author Walt Lockley and others are working to prevent.
Lockley's one of thousands of locals and Camelview 5 fans who are attempting to save the iconic art house cinema, which is a part of the Arizona-based Harkins Theatre chain, from possibly getting torn down.
An online petition aimed at preventing its demolition has been launched and currently has more than 2,000 signatures, and a Facebook group called "Save Camelview!" was launched recently by former Valley architect Taz Loomans. Camelview supporters, including the folks behind Modern Phoenix, are also planning to spread awareness of the issue and possibly be in attendance at upcoming meetings of the City of Scottsdale's Development Review Board when the matter comes up for public discussion.
Saving the Camelview theater is worth taking these steps, Lockley says, because it's an important piece of Valley lore that not only has historic status and a great deal of cultural significance, but also unique mid-century architectural elements (like the distinctive mushroom-like canopies out front and Art Deco touches inside) that set it apart from other local theaters.
"It's one of the only theaters of its kind in the entire state of Arizona because of its architecture," Lockley says. "But it's not only an architectural argument that is why Camelview is significant. It's a well-loved, well-used, and very popular theater with a strong identity of its own and one of the [few] theatres in the Arizona that shows exactly its kind of limited release foreign and independent films."