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Coming Attractions Theatres buys Minor Theatre

Ashland company buys longestrunning feature theater in country

Coming Attractions Theatres recently acquired Minor Theatres in Northern California, obtaining four new venues along with the famous Minor Theatre in Arcata, Calif. ­— the longest running theatre in the United States built for feature films.

In an April 10 transaction, the company bought the Minor Theatres company, who had been operating since 1972. Phillips said he had known Coming Attractions CEO John Schweiger since he opened the Varsity Theatre in Ashland in 1985. The California theatre operator said he and his wife were ready to retire, and a trade to an old friend seemed like a logical business transaction.

“I’m still interested in film,” Phillips said. “We just want to take time off and travel.”

The four theatres, with 25 total screens, in Humboldt County will make a sizeable addition to Coming Attractions’ group of 20 total (including Minor Theatres). Coming Attractions has been busy with acquisitions according to company president Larry McLennan, but the Northern California group should be a welcome addition. The local company recently bought the Cannes Cinema in Seaside and changed the name to Seaside Cinema. The company is also working on building a 10-screen movie complex in Chehalis, Wash. Along with the Minor Theatre in Arcata, Coming Attractions acquired the Movies Bayshore Mall theatre and Broadway Cinema in Eureka and the Mill Creek Cinema in McKinleyville, all part of Minor Theatres.

“It was the whole market,” McLennan said of the theatres in Humboldt County.

The most famous of the acquired theatres, the Minor Theatre, has a history dating back to 1914. Isaac Minor, an immigrant mercantile salesman, made a small fortune during the Trinity Gold Rush of the 1850s. Minor teamed up with a Mrs. Bert Pettingill, a former nickelodeon operator, according to a historic account from the Minor Theatres Web site. With Minor’s money and Pettingill’s experience, the theatre was built and operated by the same owners until 1927 when George Mann of Redwood Theatres (the competition) bought it.

Redwood Theatres operated the Minor Theatre until 1938, when it opened the larger Arcata Theatre in town. Redwood Theatres promptly shut down the old Minor Theatre, and it remained dark for 10 years.

In 1948, new business owners re-opened the theatre and competed with Redwood Theatres until around 1960 when it closed again. The Minor Theatre was used for university-related activities until 1972 when Phillips, his wife LouAnna and Michael Thomas opened it again in 1972.

Staff writer Alan Panebaker can be reached at 482-3456 x 227 or apanebaker@dailytidings.com.

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