Metro-Phoenicians, we face a cultural demolition problem. We keep destroying different aspects of our Valley’s history, from the Madison and St. James’ Hotels downtown to the Valley National Bank that used to stand on the corner of Apache and Rural. We even tried to demolish a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Arcadia.
Well, we’re at it again.
This theater is so much more than just another mall movie theater, and it should not be torn down.
It showcases the best movies around and is literally the only place locally to see the less commercially successful Academy Award contenders not in wide release, as well as movies that show in festivals around the country and the world.
Camelview deserves better than this, and the community should step up and do what’s best by supporting the continued existence of this theater.
There isn’t another place to see indie films in the Valley. Valley Art Theatre on Mill Avenue just doesn’t compare to the range and depth contained in the movies shown at Camelview. I’ve seen gems such as “Frances Ha” or “We Need to Talk About Kevin” at this theater, and I just don’t know what I would do without it.
On the other hand, Harkins promises to continue showing indie films inside the expanded mall. Currently, there’s a Harkins Theaters inside the mall that shows blockbusters (and brain-melters) the likes of “Men in Black 3.”
I’m not arguing against the blockbuster culture, but let it stand that there are movies that will make you think and entertain you, shown inside Camelview, and those that will entertain you, shown inside Fashion Square.
Movies of a different stratum should be shown in a building that showcases the status of alternative and indie.
In this way, the Camelview represents a physical flashpoint for the indie movie scene in Phoenix, as well as a physical manifestation of the social and cultural diversity that Phoenix has to offer.
Without the building, it’s just another movie theater inside another box, as was the case with the brand of Cine Capri. The original Cine Capri was torn down in 1998, despite 260,000 signatures requesting its preservation. It was rebuilt in North Scottsdale without any of the character of the old theater.
Today, there’s a great chance to stop the “redevelopment” plans in the works and to show businesses that part of their business plan should be serving the community.
The mayor of Scottsdale may be on the wrong side of this battle. Rachel Smetana, Management Assistant to the Mayor said that “Mayor Lane and Council wouldn’t have a vote in this private business decision.”
Luckily, there’s an ally on City Council.
Councilman Guy Phillips said, “The best thing to do is to talk to (Dan) Harkins and see if he is willing to listen to alternatives to tearing it down.”
However, Phillips sees the limitations in any action taken on the city level.
“It’s private property and if they want to rezone it, we could say no,” he said. “If they want to tear down a commercial (property) and build another commercial property, we can’t do anything.”
On this issue, it looks like there is a need for a surge of community involvement. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to the preservation of this architectural landmark, and I recently started a petition to keep the theater intact.
Please, do your civic part to keep this monument preserved for those who enjoy it today and those who will want to remember the past through a monument to film and Phoenix history.
Better yet, take your activism into the real world. The next Scottsdale Historic Preservation Commission meeting is Oct. 10 and will probably be held at 7506 E. Indian School in the Community Design Studio at 5:30 p.m.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @peternorthfelt.
Want to join the conversation? Send an email to email@example.com. Keep letters under 300 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.