The Next Three Decades

The Cine Capri Theater, circa 1966. Photo by George Aurelius.

The Cine Capri opened to the general public on April 1, 1966. A few years later Arizona Paramount Corporation and ABC Paramount disposed of their theater holdings and withdrew from the community, and over the next three decades the Ciné Capri would be operated by several different companies, including Nace and Plitt. During this time the Cine Capri became a favorite venue for Valley movie lovers.

Like many Phoenicians, I too have many fond memories of the original Cine Capri. This theater hosted my eleventh birthday party when my friends and I went to see the animated version of Disney’s Jungle Book. It was where my mother practically ripped my arm from the socket during the snake pit scene in True Grit. (Mother had a horrible fear of snakes.) It was where my parents would later take me to see The Godfather, and it was where I had a first date with a college boyfriend when we saw, Logan’s Run. Then there was Star Wars. The following summer the same boyfriend and I stood in line to see Star Wars. And he liked it so much we went back a few days later. As I recall, Star Wars played at the Cine Capri for at least a year, perhaps longer.

In August, 1988, the locally owned Harkins Theatres chain assumed the lease for the Cine Capri. Like the Arizona Paramount Corporation, Harkins Theaters goes way back in Valley theater history. In fact, George Aurelius and Red Harkins, Dan Harkins’ father, were old friends, back in the day.

Sadly, Harkins would be the final operator of the original Cine Capri.

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The east side of the building with the same portico columns. The east side had been intended for use as a smoking area for those patrons who wished to have a cigarette during intermissions. Photo by George Aurelius.
The box office and main entrance. Photo by Harold Williams.

The Curtain Falls

Members of the Save the Cine Capri Committee. Photo courtesy of Harold Williams.

The ground on which the original Cine Capri stood never belonged to ABC Paramount, or any other Cine Capri leaseholder. The Cine Capri was actually a tenant, with a multi-year lease, and in 1996 the property owners announced their redevelopment plans, which, unfortunately, did not include keeping the original Cine Capri. The property owners lived out of state, and were completely unaware of just how well-loved this Valley landmark was, but they would soon be made aware.

Enter Greg Stangel. I only met Mr. Stangel briefly, and, by all outward appearances, he epitomized Joe Sixpack. He was a seemly ordinary guy who loved going to the movies, and he especially loved going to the movies at the Cine Capri. But Greg Stangel was no ordinary guy. As soon as he heard about the plans to demolish the Cine Capri, he started up a petition drive to save The Cine Capri. And people signed the petition. Lots and lots of people signed it. In fact, over 200,000 people signed it, and it became the most successful petition drive in Arizona history, at least in the number of signatures gathered.

A Save the Cine Capri committee was formed. It consisted of writers, architects, such as Harold Williams, local radio and television personality Pat McMahon, Wayne Kullander, executive vice president for Harkins Theaters, and Dan Harkins himself. According to Harold Williams, the committee tried to register the building on the National Register of Historic Places, but it apparently wasn’t old enough to qualify. I was living out of state when the efforts to save the theater began, and I didn’t move back to Phoenix until September, 1997. By then my dad, W.E. “Bill” Homes, Jr., the retired CEO of Homes & Son Construction Company, who built the theater, was dying of cancer. He and I talked about the building, and the efforts to save it. He too hoped it would be spared, but even if it wasn’t, he figured they would probably build a new theater someday.

Sadly, despite the giant grassroots effort, and the bitter fight that ensued, the property owners prevailed, and in February, 1998, the beautiful Cine Capri was razed to the ground. Of all the iconic Phoenix movie houses, only the Orpheum remains.

But not to worry. The story of the original Cine Capri was far from over.

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The early stages of the demolition. Photo by Harold Williams.
The demolition continues. Photo by Harold Williams
The remains of the theater lobby. Photo by Harold Williams.

Grand Opening of the New Cine Capri

Fans arriving for the grand opening of the new Cine Capri at the Scottsdale 101. Photo Courtesy of Harkins Theaters

On Wednesday, June 25, 2003, the new Cine Capri at the Scottsdale 101 had its official grand opening. And while we weren’t able to have Charlton Heston this time around, local radio and television personality, and long-time Valley resident Pat McMahon was in attendance. During the grand opening ceremony Dan Harkins took the time to thank everyone involved, including yours truly. And while the architectural style and lobby differ from the original theater, the auditorium and film going experience was much the same as the first Cine Capri. I was also pleased to see just how many people stopped by to look at the exhibit. I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. The old Cine Capri may be gone, but it will never be forgotten, and I think my father would have been pleased.

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Dan Harkins (right) presenting a special plaque to Pat McMahon in appreciation for his efforts to save the original Cine Capri. Photo courtesy of Harkins Theaters.
Pat McMahon, (left), with Dan Harkins. Photo courtesy of Harkins Theaters.
Gayle Homes Martin, (left), Wayne Kullander, (center) and Dan Harkins. Photo courtesy of Harkins Theaters.