Galaxy could be Northgate’s ‘death knell’ |

Galaxy could be Northgate’s ‘death knell’

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal A man watches "Harry Potter" at the Northgate Theaters in Carson City at the 12:30 p.m. showing on Friday. Less than 15 people bought tickets for that showing of this popular movie.

A multiplex that had been the only movie theater in Carson City for years may have trouble staying in business now that a larger and more contemporary theater has opened.

According to Ronni Hannaman, the executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce, Northgate Movies 10 “is going to be going away very soon.”

“They have put no money into this for years,” Hannaman said. “The bathrooms don’t work, the seats are broken. People who have traditionally liked a good movie have been going to either Reno or to Minden where the theaters are clean and neat.”

And now Northgate has more competition from newer theaters to the north and south. Galaxy Fandango Theatre, a 10-screen $15 million theater, opened Friday on the south side of the city as Northern Nevada’s first all-digital theater.

This is not the first sign of trouble for Northgate, however, according to Hannaman. It’s been “dying for a while” and “this is just the death knell.”

One of the most common complaints customers as well as the City have with the theater is its appearance.

A May 2006 Health Department inspection written in response to a complaint found: “Floor covered in debris. Cabinets covered in soda residue. Slurpy residue in cabinet tracks. Opening under service cabinet filled with popcorn debris.”

The multiplex was cited also during that time and during a February routine inspection for “poisonous or toxic materials not properly stored.”

Northgate declined to make any comment on their business. Their owner, Portland, Ore.-based Hollywood Theaters, and their property manager, Los Angeles-based Standard Management Company, could not be reached for comment.

Patrick Corcoran, director of research for the National Association of Theatre Owners, said several things can happen when one theater pushes another out of business.

“It depends on the population and whether it can support more than one theater,” he said. “How far away they are (from each other), the type of programming they do.”

Digital theaters have an advantage, he said, because the quality of its film doesn’t diminish. It can also show any media that is in a digital format including sports games, television shows or digital home videos.

Besides that, one of Galaxy’s 10 theaters can show 3-D movies, a format that’s becoming popular, Corcoran said.

“I would tell you honestly, why would you go to a theater with broken down seats when you can go to a movie with state-of-the-art high-definition all throughout with the best seats,” Hannaman said. “Why would you do that?”

When Northgate opened in August 1980 as The Movies, though, it had more screens than its competition and was considered the best theater in the city.

“That was actually the big deal at one time, because it had more than two screens,” said state archivist Guy Rocha. “I know in the early days, people thought a lot of it.”

At that time, it had competition from a three-screen theater on Winnie Lane, a one-screen theater on Highway 50 East and a drive-in theater on the south side of the city.

Northgate went on to make major improvements in the middle to late 1990s. In 1996, it added six screens and updated some of its sound systems. In 1998, it put stadium seating in front of four screens, an amenity Corcoran said theaters rushed to add that decade.

While Northgate was popular when it opened, Rocha said, the Galaxy “is above and beyond what Carson City has ever known.”

Not everyone thinks Northgate is in trouble, though.

Scott Kirk, owner of Soks Sports Cards near Northgate, said there will still be people who like a small-town atmosphere where they can “chill and take it easy.”

He said he thinks it won’t be put out of business by the Galaxy theater.

Even so, Kirk himself doesn’t see movies at Northgate.

“I go to Reno,” he said.

History of movie theaters around Carson City

1930s: Theater at 601 N. Carson St. opens. It closes in the early 1950s.

1950s: Carson Cinema Theater at 716 N. Carson St. opens.

1973-1975: Frontier Theater, six miles east of Carson City, shows adult movies.

1976: Carson Twin Cinema, later growing to Carson Cinema 3, opens at 55 E. Winnie Lane. Carson Cinema Theater, having expanded to two screens, closes.

1980: Cinema 50 at 2226 Highway 50 East opens. Later closes.

August 1980: The Movies, later becoming Northgate Movies 10, opens at 2571 N. Carson St. It shows “The Final Countdown,” “Close Encounters of the third Kind,” “The Big Red One” and “The Hunter” at its grand opening.

Early 1980s: Sky-Vu drive-in theater on North Carson Street and Spooner drive-in theater on the south side of the city close.

August 2007: Galaxy Fandango Theatre, the first all-digital multiplex in Northern Nevada, opens.

– Source: Guy Rocha, state

archivist; Appeal records