The Cine Capri began in 1964 when the Federal District Court of New York approved Arizona Paramount Theatre’s application to construct and operate a new motion picture theater at the Barrows Plaza at 24th Street and Camelback. Such approval was required for theaters owned by major motion picture studios due to anti-trust laws.
Shortly after being approved the Cine Capri came to life when George M. Aurelius, vice-president and general manager of Arizona Paramount Corporation and Henry George Greene, A.I.A., N.C.A.R.B., consulting architect to ABC Theaters, teamed with W.E. “Bill” Homes, Jr. president of Homes & Son Construction Company, Inc. and Ralph Haver, president of Haver, Nunn & Jensen, architects for Barrows Plaza. Rounding out the group was Spero Kontos of the Los Angeles based John Filbert Company. Their goal was to design, build and outfit a unique, state-of-the-art motion picture facility the would complement potential neighborhood development and accommodate ever-changing film distribution and exhibition patterns.
The large, 16,500 square-foot facility featured strikingly beautiful dual colonnades flanking both sides of the theater; ten pre-cast white, columns weighing seven tons each. They were supported with overhangs with copper fascias cured to achieve an antique green patina. The patio off the east lobby provided a shelter for waiting patrons and intermission breaks, while the larger western portico served as the main entrance. The entire lower building façade was overlaid with imported hexagonal jade Italian tile. In the center was a multi-paneled, twenty-four foot long, custom antique stained glass window which served as a focal point, day and night, from inside and out. Low profile desert landscaping surrounded the Cine Capri, featuring assorted palm trees, and Russian Olive and Italian Cyprus trees punctuating the perimeter.
Upon entering the theater patrons found themselves in a spacious two-level lobby with clean modern lines. From the center could be seen Camelback Mountain and its Praying Monk rock formation. A generous oval confection area was situated in thefront of the auditorium back wall with working gold waterfall draperies duplicating the lavish auditorium décor.
The auditorium was enveloped in a lavish display of 4000 yards of lustrous antique gold fabric covering the proscenium and walls from carpet to ceiling. The electrically synchronized gold front cascade drape moved on cue vertically at different speeds to reveal the title curtain behind, which opened horizontally to expose the film on a giant curved screen which extended out to the fifth row of seats. The action of the drapes typically evoked spontaneous applause from audiences.
With the Cine Capri continental seating was introduced to the community. This was a sloping floor plan in which the rows of seats flowed from side aisle to side aisle; eliminating the center aisle. The eight hundred high back, maroon rocking chairs were designed for comfort and perfect vision from every seat. In later years however this floor plan had to be changed to conform to changes in the fire codes.
The Cine Capri was also the first multipurpose theater in the southwest specifically designed to project all film aspect ratios of the time, including Cinemascope, Vista-Vision, and Cinerama from its 70/35 mm projectors and stereophonic sound system, offering everything optically and visually available from around the world for superb tonal quality and visual pleasure.
Several years later the Arizona Paramount Corporation and ABC Paramount theaters disposed of their theater holdings and withdrew from the community. In 1988 the theatre was renovated and re-opened by it’s new operator Harkins Theatres, the largest privately owned movie theatre chain in North America.
The Cine Capri opened with the Charlton Heston film The Agony and the Ecstasy.
The morning of March 31, 1966, Charlton Heston, star of "The Agony and The Ecstasy," hosted a youth drama clinic in the theater auditorium for several dozen high school and college students. This was followed by an afternoon “show & tell” reception for distinguished guests to personally meet Mr. Heston. Attendees included community leaders, city and state officials, the press, radio and television personnel, studio and distribution executives as well as neighborhood merchants. Also there were the architects, contractors, members of the trade and craft suppliers, the Phoenix Art Council and the Mid Town Rotary Club, the sponsors of the evening charity program.
Well before curtain time the premiere attendees and fans who had gathered outside the theater were entertained by the Scottsdale High School Marching Band. The outside festivities concluded with the arrival of Charlton Heston in an open convertible. He was then escorted through the crowd to the entrance where he officially launched the theater with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Once inside the patrons filed into the auditorium for the inaugural program. Mr. Heston addressed the audience, suggesting they were most fortunate to have, “this new, outstanding prototype of the motion picture theater of tomorrow,” for them to enjoy.
The lights dimmed, the front drapes rose, and the opening credits fell on the title curtain. Thus a world-class theater was born as the Cine Capri officially came to life and began its honorable and distinguished third-of-a-century run of great storytelling and dream spinning for all to enjoy.
Other notable runs at the Cine Capri include Star Wars in 1977. The Cine Capri held one of the highest grosses for the 1977 George Lucas film and played the film for over a year – the longest run in the United States.
In 1997, a year-long battle began between Harkins Theatres and the property owner over the decision to demolish the Cine Capri in favor of a high-rise office building. Despite over 260,000 petition signatures and efforts of the Save the Cine Capri Committee, the preservation effort failed. On January 5, 1998 at 2:12am, the curtain lowered on the original Cine Capri and its appropriate final film, Titanic. Six weeks later, the out-dated theatre was demolished.
In 2003 the Cine Capri was rebuilt as part of the Scottsdale 101 theatre complex in Phoenix, Arizona. With a 568 seat auditorium and a 40,000 watt / 150 speaker Digital sound system, the Scottsdale Cine Capri became the largest regular movie theater screen in Arizona at over wide by high. The only other screens larger in Arizona are the IMAX screens which standard are 72.5'W x 52.8'H (22m x 16m) and sometimes larger. The Scottsdale 101 location is also home to the Cine Capri museum which showcases memorabilia and photos from the original Cine Capri. The Cine Capri auditorium concept has also been re-incarnated at the company's newest locations, The Bricktown 16, the Southlake Towne Square 14, and the Northfield 18 at Northfield Stapleton in Denver, Colorado.
Due to the success of the Cine Capri in Scottsdale, a second Arizona Cine Capri was built in Tempe, Arizona at the new Tempe Marketplace shopping center, along with 15 other movie screens. It is located on the Southwest corner of Loop 101 and Loop 202 Red Mountain, with over 650,000 vehicles passing every day. The new stadium-style theatre has the same size screen - over 70'W x 30'H and has 604 seats instead of 568. The new theater pre-opened on June 28, 2007 with the running of the original 1977 Star Wars, a Dan Harkins favorite. The Grand Opening was on June 29, 2007 and the opening film was Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth installment in the Die Hard Series starring Bruce Willis.
Harkins also operates a Cine Capri at its Oklahoma City Bricktown 16 theather complex which opened in 2005. The theater, the largest in Oklahoma, houses a wide screen, 600 seats, 144 speakers and 40,000 watts of power and pure digital sound.
Two more Cine Capris recently opened at the Northfield 18 theaters in Denver, Colorado and at the Southlake Town Square in Southlake, Texas.
Fuchs, Andreas and Melnick, Ross. "Cinema Treasures A New Look at Classic Movie Theaters." MBI Publishing Company, St. Paul, MN. 2004.
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