Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Branding History

For movie fans in Arizona, it is hard not to love Harkins Theatres. They are a local family-owned movie theatre chain that started with a single theatre on Mill Avenue - Tempe's main drag - and now dominates the Phoenix area and has expanded into four other states. They have competed with the national chains and fought to keep ticket prices down while setting the standard for luxury viewing experiences. In addition to giving us a great place to view blockbusters, they also operate the only two arthouse theatres in the area - the Valley Art, their original theatre on Mill, and Camelview, which has been a big-city arthouse for a lot longer than we have been a big city.

So, with all that said, I must question their use and abuse of the Cine Capri name, which reaches a new level with the opening of their newest Tempe theatre this week. A little backstory: the original Cine Capri was an old-style movie house in Phoenix that was demolished in 1997. Harkins owned the theatre at the time, but not the land it was located on, and led an impassioned campaign to save it. Dan Harkins, the chain's chairman, vowed to resurrect the Cine Capri. And he did, sort of. He placed a 500-seat theatre with a screen the same size as the original Capri -the largest in the state-in a new multiplex located in the farthest northeast corner of Phoenix. I had a problem with Harkins using the Cine Capri name back then, but it seemed as if his heart was in the right place, wanting to preserve a piece of history, if only in name.

Then, quietly, and without many people in Arizona realizing it, Harkins began expanding the Cine Capri name to other states. Three of the four other states Harkins has expanded to now have their own Cine Capris, all denoting the biggest theatre in the area.

Now, this weekend, Harkins continues its branding of the Cine Capri name by opening one, with a larger screen and seating capacity the one in north Phoenix, in its new Tempe Marketplace multiplex.

Part of me is excited about the opening of this theatre, as the other Cine Capri is too remote and Harkins has vowed to convert its other Tempe theatre -Centerpoint - into an arthouse. But something bothers me about the conversion of Cine Capri from a physical place with a particular history to a brand name denoting bigger and better.

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