The old Harkins Centerpoint theater on Mill Avenue and Seventh Street in Tempe is vacant no more.
The two-story cinema, which was shuttered when Harkins opened its current theater at Tempe Marketplace, reopens this weekend as a live performance space. To celebrate, a lineup of concerts by nine local bands will be free on Friday and Saturday.
Now called MADCAP Theaters, the old movie house has been remodeled as a venue for live music, film screenings, stage performances, lectures and art exhibits.
"Our main goal is to take an asset we already have in this great building and repurpose it to bring a fresh, exciting vibe back to the Centerpoint courtyard area," says Casaundra Brown, spokeswoman for the Downtown Tempe Community, the partnership of Mill Avenue District merchants and community leaders who, along with sponsors like Pepsi and Sitewire, got the project off the ground.
"The theater is best suited for music, so we like to think we're bringing live music back to Tempe, giving local artists performance space that they otherwise couldn't afford."
MADCAP, which stands for Mill Avenue District Community Arts Project, currently houses three finished spaces: the No-Name Theater (120 seats), New Times Theater (150 seats) and 101 Distribution Theater (310 seats). Each contains a stage and large screen. There's also a concession stand serving candy, popcorn and fountain drinks for about $2-$5 per item.
Eventually, the plan is to open all 11 theaters inside the building, says Brown.
The space is currently being booked by a mix of theater troupes, dance companies, comedy teams and local artists. She expects schools, universities, organizations and corporations to use the venue, too.
Rental fees start around $200, and all money goes to keeping the theaters operating.
"We've done all of this on a shoestring budget. In fact, we had no budget at all when we first came up the with idea," says Brown. "We literally grabbed everyone we knew who had a skill, and we used their skills to rebuild screens and walls and repair curtains. The whole thing has been about recycling this space and making the most of limited resources."
While there are still remnants of the old theater (crazy-patterned 1990s-era carpet), she says the space is beginning to take on an "urban chic" vibe.
"It's perfect for all the things we want to be able to offer. Being that it's an old movie theater, the walls are all made for sound, so you could have a rock band in a theater right next to an art exhibit and never know it."
Seating for the weekend concerts is limited. You can reserve a spot by clicking on the "buy tickets" link at MadcapTheaters.com. Tickets are free and can be picked up at will call at the MADCAP Theaters Box Office.
The weekend's free lineup is as follows:
No-Name Theater: The Joe Draper Band (rock) at 8 p.m. and Sunday Morning Drive (rock) at 9 p.m.
New Times Theater: Desert Vista Music showcase (rock/acoustic) from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
101 Distribution Theater: Fire Flock Entertainment Showcase (hip-hop) from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
101 Distribution Theater: AZUL (avant-garde/electro rock) at 8 p.m. and X Chromosomes (trip-hop/electro rock) at 9 p.m.
New Times Theater: Five High (alternative rock) at 7:30 p.m., Isle of Essence (rock/funk) at 8:30 p.m. and Joey Arroyo (rock/soul/acoustic) at 9:30 p.m.