Dan Harkins on Camelview 5's Impending Closure in Scottsdale

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Benjamin Leatherman
Perhaps no local is more sentimental about the death of old movie houses than Dan Harkins, owner of the Harkins Theatres chain and, therefore, the guy who took the heat over that Cine Capri closing (and who's undoubtedly going to be rebuked for the shuttering of Camelview).

The single-screen cinema, with its balconies and ushers and double features, has joined vaudeville and silent pictures in our hazy American memory. And yet those of us intent on sanctimonious navel-gazing must whine, occasionally, about the good old days, when one saw two carefully paired feature-length films and a couple of cartoons for a buck-fifty in a big beautiful building with just one movie screen in it.

We are old and we are sentimental, and no one is making movies for us anymore, anyway. Sandra Bullock in space? CGI cartoons? The Rock? No, thank you. And so we occasionally sit in quiet reverie, wistfully recalling the Palms Theater on Central Avenue, just south of Park Central Shopping Center, which opened in 1945 and had the distinction of having appeared in the 1969 Sonny and Cher stink bomb Chastity, which was filmed here. The Palms had a jasmine-scented garden, a wishing well, and white-gloved ushers who -- at least when the place was new -- brought you popcorn popped in the basement so as not to stink up the lobby.

See also: Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale to Close, Reopen as Luxury Cinema in 2015

If we have been weeping lately over the news of the impending closing of Harkins Camelview 5, the five-screen Scottsdale art-and-independent film house, we've also been heaving sighs thinking about the tiny Kachina Theater in Old Town Scottsdale, with its giant curved Cinerama screen, or the Bethany West on Bethany Home Road and 23rd Avenue, the first movie house to offer Sensurround, a cheesy '70s gimmick that made loud movies sound even louder (and which led to structural damage of the Bethany West when the management screened Earthquake there in 1974).

And we whimper when someone mentions the long-ago bulldozed Fox Theater on First Street, or the Paramount on Adams (which had previously been the glorious Orpheum Stage Theater, and which has since been renovated and returned to us). Watch as we burst into tears at the sound of the words "Cine Capri," our former movie palace, 16,000 square feet of concrete columned magnificence, its two-story lobby home to billions of jujubes and a monstrous stained glass window, its mammoth curved screen the largest in town. We stopped short of throwing ourselves onto a pyre when the Cine Capri, a Harkins Theatres venue, was torn down in 1998 to make room for a new office complex and reopened (sort of) in both Phoenix and Tempe malls a few years later.

Perhaps no local is more sentimental about the death of old movie houses than Dan Harkins, owner of the Harkins Theatres chain and, therefore, the guy who took the heat over that Cine Capri closing (and who's undoubtedly going to be rebuked for the shuttering of Camelview). Dan was practically born in a movie theater; his father, Dwight "Red" Harkins, owned the College Theater (now the Valley Art), and Dan and his parents lived in the apartment above. He literally grew up in movie houses, working as a projectionist and eventually taking over the company in the mid-'70s. (With 30 locations in five states, Harkins Theatres is now the sixth-largest movie theater chain in the country.)

The difference between our sentimentality over cinema's local past and Dan Harkins' is that, while we lament the death of our favorite old movie houses, Dan is scrambling to keep alive the industry of showing movies in public places.

Because, you know. Going to the movies was once an event -- a rare occasion, like air travel or teenaged sex. Today, we pay a dollar or two to download a film that played at the neighborhood multiplex only months ago, then watch it at home. In an era when cinemas are paying six-figure-per-screen fees to convert their screens to new digital technology, Dan Harkins wants to keep movie house doors open.

But those of us who love old buildings -- particularly rare, distinctive ones like Camelview with its crazy mix of Deco interior touches, midcentury architectural elements, and those mushroom-shaped canopies out front -- just want everything to stay standing. We care about architectural history and the historic integrity of our city and, perhaps most of all, our memories.

One might argue that we're being sentimental in the wrong town. Phoenix and its surrounding cities are known more for bulldozing than for maintaining any sense of local history. We want our mushroom canopies and our Deco-influenced popcorn stands, but the city just wants to survive. The Harkins' lease with Macerich Co., which owns the land that Camelview rests on and leases the facility to Harkins, is up next year, and plans to level the building on the southwest corner of Goldwater Boulevard and Highland Avenue are afoot.

Word is that Dan Harkins, who's not been talking to print media about the situation, plans to relocate Camelview next door, folding it into his Scottsdale Fashion Square multiplex and creating a 12-screen megaplex that will show both first-run blockbusters and the sort of indie, art film, and foreign fare that Camelview screens.

I called Dan last week to suggest that not talking to the press might make him look like the bad guy in the story.

"I know," he told me. "And the irony is that Camelview is very dear to my heart. It's the last theater my dad built before he died in 1974. Its demise saddens me, and when it's torn down, I'll shed tears. But it's not my land, and it's not my decision. As a businessman, a born-and-bred local, and a movie lover, I'm doing as much as I can: I'm moving Camelview next door. I'm making it bigger and better."

Okay. But what about the great big mushrooms out front?

"There will be mushrooms out front," Dan assured me. "I promise, every one of us will have our mushrooms."

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Location Info

Venue

Map

Harkins Camelview 5

7001 E. Highland Ave., Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Film

Harkins Valley Art

509 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ

Category: Film

Scottsdale Fashion Square

7014 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: General

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43 comments
Sam Soysos
Sam Soysos

Btw you do know mill ave has the other Harkins that plays indie films. Just a fyi.

Benne Rex
Benne Rex

yeah it totally sucks - now we won't have anywhere to see art house and indie movies - we'll have to fly to LA or something

Kimberlynn Hall Tovrea
Kimberlynn Hall Tovrea

beat that dead horse..... be better patrons of businesses you love prior to their having to make a business decision that affects you emotionally....

Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly

Yes I am sad but it is out of Harkins Theatres hands, they do not own the property and they will add the indie movies to a 12 screen theater.

Karen Tataryn-Savio
Karen Tataryn-Savio

I am so sad, where else am I supposed to go to see the cool indie films now?

Heather Candace
Heather Candace

didn't his Daddy build this initially as a adult theater? I'm pretty sure!!!

Sandy Gilbert
Sandy Gilbert

so sorry , sorry is so diff now in in 2 fast in abuse 2 much ..blessings

Aubrey Collins
Aubrey Collins

It's not right! Only when every historic landmark has been bulldozed will we crave a feeling of nostalgia we can't re create via new means. I loved this place!! :(

Karen Tataryn-Savio
Karen Tataryn-Savio

I am so sad and heartbroken about this closing. I love this place. Where else can I go see the cool indie films?

NoFestRequired
NoFestRequired

As an independent film programmer who's followed Harkins Theaters since Valley Art days, I feel assured that Dan and Harkins Cinema will continue to screen quality independent and foreign films in the Scottsdale Fashion Square. It simply makes good business sense, particularly in the Scottsdale area.

Della Knust
Della Knust

It's like no one is reading the article. Mr. Harkins has no control over it. He would love to keep it. But he doesn't own the land. The mall does. Just like the original Cine Capri (which Mr. Harkins tried desperately to keep open). It has nothing to do with the Harkins corporation. The mall wants to build a multiplex inside, so of course it will be Harkins (in this case he is a smart business man).

Doug Hughes
Doug Hughes

Then keep it. Does it always have to come down to the almighty dollar?

Durwin Juan
Durwin Juan

Man I go there for the foreign and independent films. This sucks

Brennan Johnson
Brennan Johnson

People don't want to see movies about truth and enlightenment, and god forbid someone isn't serving you crap during a 2 hour movie. I don't get the "likes" on this one. Do you like that the theater is being torn down or do you like that Mr. Harkins will shed a tear when its torn down?

Cheryl Perez
Cheryl Perez

so hate the new cinamas there so boxcutte

Tanya Fuertes Johnson
Tanya Fuertes Johnson

It should've been declared a historical landmark...Love the movies they show there! Gonna miss it!

marcy
marcy

Yep, that same capitalism that would let YOU go out and raise the money to buy the land that the movie theater is built on and preserve it.


But you don't.  Your money, your choice.



marcy
marcy

Unless you know of some way to pay the bills with wishes and dreams, yes.

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