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Behind the scenes of Harkins Theatres: How Arizona staple has stayed in business with movie industry changes

Harkins Theatres
Posted at 3:12 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 17:52:34-05

PHOENIX — "I think dreams came true and beyond!" explains Dan Harkins, owner of the Scottsdale-based movie chain, Harkins Theatres.

Started back in 1933 by his father, Harkins now has 34 locations in five states.

"I just love it. And what an amazing industry. We sell something folks don't really need, but everyone wants."

Nearly 90 years ago, Harkins' father started the chain with a big dream and not much else.

"He put down $50 on an old theater in Tempe that had closed. It reopened... and that was the birth of Harkins. He was only 18 years old!"

At first, Harkins' father struggled to stay afloat. "He couldn't afford food. He told me stories about putting ketchup in hot water and having that as tomato soup and eating popcorn."

That famous popcorn (which is actually a recipe from his mom) is still around, but so much else has changed for Harkins and the rest of the movie industry.

With streaming services like Netlflix, Hulu, and Amazon, it's no secret - there's a lot of competition out there. But Harkins believes the "movie experience" still stands in a league of its own.

"At a movie theater, you get together for the same purpose. You get to laugh, cry, and cheer at the movie you're seeing. That communal experience, you just enjoy it so much more."

But when it comes to what Harkins loves the most about going to the movies, he says, it's not about any of the bells or whistles - it's actually something much more simple.

"I get so many wonderful reviews from our patrons, like, my first date with my wife was at your theater. Or, I brought my kids in and the first time they saw a movie was there, so I feel like we're so involved in the community with so many families and friends and I just love it."