I was writing an article on endangered animals when I heard news that Camelview Theater in Scottsdale, Arizona is in danger of being torn down in favor of making room for a 2000+ seat megaplex theater, which would be part of an expansion of Fashion Square Mall. Just like endangered animals will be gone forever if we don’t save them, the same is true for historic buildings.
According to Nick Blumberg of KJZZ, “Camelview may be on the chopping block. Dan Harkins leases the land from Camelview’s neighbors, Scottsdale Fashion Square. The mall wants to expand, and that might mean tearing down the last theater Red Harkins helped build.”
But he goes on to say the independent movie experience will likely survive. Dan Harkins, current lessor and operator of Camelview Theater, says, “my vision is that someday, we could combine Fashion Square with Camelview and make a nice 12- or 14-plex, giving us some much more latitude to book the theater correctly, and book the art and foreign films, too. I predict that a theater like Camelview will always exist in this market.”
The problem is that you can’t reproduce “a theater like Camelview” because it is unique and historic, offering a one-of-a-kind movie-going experience. Once it’s torn down, it’ll be gone forever. It’s great that Phoenix residents will still have a place to catch independent movies, but it’s terrible that it will have to be in a vanilla, mass-produced, characterless megaplex which you will find anywhere from from Sierra Vista, Arizona to the Ahwatukee neighborhood in Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona.
Having lived in Portland, Oregon for seven months now, I am a frequent patron of the multiple historic theaters here. In Portland, I have the option of visiting a typical movie megaplex or I have the option of watching an independent or second-run movie at a neighborhood historic theater. I have walked to the historic Bagdad Theater, and biked to the Laurelhurst Theater, the Hollywood Theater and The Clinton Street Theater to enjoy all sorts of movies and shows. I rarely even go to movie multiplexes because it’s a lot more fun to go to the quaint, historic movie theaters. The Bagdad, Laurelhurst Theater, Hollywood Theater and the Clinton Street Theater DEFINE the neighborhoods they are in. Without them, neighborhoods wouldn’t have the same character.
That is what Camelview does for central Scottsdale, especially the Fashion Square area. It DEFINES that place, because of its unique and historic architecture. The Camelview experience is so much more than the movies that are shown in it. The experience is inextricably entwined with the actual building. The mushroom shade structure in the front makes the area memorable with a local, Phoenix-specific, midcentury modern flair. With plans to replace this unique building with just another movie megaplex that you could just as easily find in any suburb in the US, Scottsdale will have lost something that makes it authentic and will just become another colorless, placeless suburb that’s destroyed its heritage.
You will not find another Camelview anywhere else in the world. Why would Phoenix, a place that has lost so much of its character and unique personality to insensitive demolition and redevelopment, tear down one of the ONLY operating historic theaters in the region in favor of yet another movie megaplex?
What can we do to stop this? At this point, it’s not clear. But one thing we can do is let it be known that the greater Phoenix community LOVES Camelview Theater and that it will not stand for this part of the city’s heritage to be torn down. Make some noise about this! Tell your friends. Spread the word on Facebook and Twitter and other social media channels. Make it known to the world that you don’t want the irreplaceable Camelview Theater to be taken away forever. You can also contact Steve Venker of the City of Scottsdale Historic Preservation Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-312-2831. In addition, you can attend and voice your concern about the possible demolition of the theater at the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Commission which meets on the second Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. Meeting location information are here: http://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/boards/HistPres.asp
Also, if you love Camelview and don’t want to see it torn down, please share your experiences of going to the theater in the comment section! And join the group Save Camelview and share your stories on there as well!
Plus, sign this petition to ask Macerich not to demolish Camelview!!!
Photo Credit: Lead image courtesy of Walt Lockley.Tags: camelview theater, historic preservation, historic theater, phoenix, Scottsdale