The Grand Opening

The Cine Capri celebrated its grand opening on Thursday, March 31, 1966, and it would be more than an evening premier. It would be an all day event to raise money for local charities.

The morning began with the arrival of Charlton Heston at Sky Harbor Airport. From there he was taken to the Cine Capri to host a youth drama clinic in the theater auditorium for several dozen high school and college drama students. This was followed by an afternoon invitational reception for VIP guests to meet personally with Mr. Heston. Those in attendance included community leaders, city and state officials, press, radio and television personnel, film studio and distribution executives, and neighborhood merchants. Also represented were theater executives, the architects, contractors, members of the building trades, crafts, suppliers, the Phoenix Art Council and the Phoenix Midtown Rotary Club Officials and sponsors of the evening charity program.

Waiting premiere attendees and fans who had come for the evening festivities gathered outside the theater and were entertained by the Scottsdale High School marching band. The outside grand opening activities concluded with the arrival of Charlton Heston in an open convertible. He was then slowly escorted through the crowd to the entrance where he “officially” launched the theater with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Once inside the theater, patrons filed into the auditorium for the evening inaugural program, where 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 which opened to reveal the premiere showing of the 20th Century Fox film, The Agony and The Ecstasy starring Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison. Thus a world class theater was born as the Ciné Capri officially came to life and began its distinguished third of a century run of great storytelling and dream spinning for all to enjoy.

–edited from George Aurelius’ personal notes, July, 1998.

The Next Three Decades

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.

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.

Photo courtesy of Harold Williams

Photo courtesy of Harold Williams