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.

The Cine Capri Model Unveiling

The Cine Capri Model. Photo courtesy of the Gayle Martin collection.

The Cine Capri Model was officially unveiled to the public on Saturday, May 15, 1999, at the Arizona Historical Society Museum, (now the Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park). The festivities included a silent auction and a slide show presentation in the museum auditorium chronicling the history of the original Cine Capri. The silent auction included paintings of the Cine Capri, opening night photos signed by Charlton Heston, and an original, unpublished Family Circus cartoon created by Bil Keane exclusively for this event. After the slide show, the model was officially unveiled to the public, with George Aurelius, Wayne Kullander, and local architect Harold Williams, a member of the Save the Cine Capri committee doing the honors.

Along with preserving the memory of this iconic Phoenix landmark, this event raised money in my father’s memory for two Valley charities; The  John C. Lincoln Health Foundation and The Arizona Historical Society.

My dad, W.E. “Bill” Homes, Jr., served on the John C. Lincoln hospital board of directors for twenty years, six of them as chairman. During his tenure, John C. Lincoln Hospital became a Level One trauma center.

The other charity was the Arizona Historical Society, without whose help this project would not have been possible. Their mission is, “to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate the history of Arizona and the West,” and the original Cine Capri was most certainly a part of central Arizona history.

Thanks to silent auction, and donations from other friends and supporters, each charity received a generous donation, and the museum was gifted with the Cine Capri Model, which remains in their permanent collection.

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Gayle Martin at the silent auction. Photo courtesy of the Gayle Martin collection.
George Aurelius, (left), Wayne Kullander, (center), Harold Williams, (right), and Gayle Martin, (right) prepare to unveil the Cine Capri Model. Photo courtesy of Gayle Martin collection.
George Aurelius, (left), Wayne Kullander, (center) and Harold Williams, (right), unveil the Cine Capri Model. Photo courtesy of Gayle Martin collection.
Wayne Kullander admires the Cine Capri Model. Photo Courtesy of the Gayle Martin collection.

The Circle is Complete

Wayne Kullander, (left) and George Aurelius. Photo by Gayle Martin

On Saturday, June 28, 2003, a few days after the opening of the new Cine Capri at the Scottsdale 101, Wayne Kullander invited George Aurelius and me for a special, behind the scenes tour of the new theater.

Wayne Kullander and George Aurelius have a long history together, as Wayne worked for “Uncle” George, back in 1966, when he was the inaugural manager of the original Cine Capri. And, watching these two men together was like watching two kids in a candy store. “Uncle” George was in his nineties, but you wouldn’t have known it. Even after all the years that had passed, both still enjoyed each other’s company. Along with reminiscing about the past, they talked for what seemed like hours about about the changes in sound and projection systems, seat design, and concessions. But for me, what was the most gratifying, was to see George Aurelius, the man responsible for the creation of the original Cine Capri, and the man who gave the theater its name, give his stamp of approval to the new Cine Capri.

 

Wayne Kullander, (left), and George Aurelius, reminisce in the project room at the new Cine Capri. Photo by Gayle Martin.

 

Harry Karp, (left), ABC Paramount District Manager, and Wayne Kullander, the inaugural Cine Capri manager. March 31, 1966. Photo courtesy of George Aurelius collection.