Greenfire-led downtown development tour Thursday
Carolina Theatre wrapping up renovations

Northgate theater, one year old, changes management

A bit of surprising news from the Northgate folks today: the one-year old stadium seating cinemas is changing management. Phoenix Theaters, a Tennessee-based outfit that had been brought in when West Virginia's Marquee Cinemas folded on the project effective, well -- effective today.

In its place comes East Coast Entertainment, which looks to be a rather new outfit; the LLC shell company for the Sandhills-based venture was incorporated just last week. The managing partner, Brian McCall, is apparently no stranger to cinemas, though, having started at Marquee before All Star Entertainment, which managed a half-dozen theaters across West Virginia and North Carolina. From what I can tell, All Star Cinemas very recently merged with Frank Theatres, a New Jersey-based theater operator. Now it appears McCall is on to new ventures and adventures, starting here in the Bull City.

So why's the news surprising? Ownership changes happen from time to time, but what seems distinctive on this one is the brevity of notice, at least to the public. Duke University's HR arm put out a note to employees who had purchased Phoenix 10 tickets this afternoon noting that the operational management was changing effective today, and that passes would no longer be available for sale through Duke. At the same time, Northgate's web site has changed sometime in the past 24-72 hours, as best as I can tell, with a press release announcing the change.

So, it's a bit of a mystery as to why there wasn't more notice about the changeover. A call to Phoenix Theaters' HQ discovered that the operational manager was out of town through the end of the week and wouldn't be available to comment until early next week. McCall was also not available this late in the day for comment. 

(If I had to speculate, it would be to wonder whether Phoenix's arrangement had ever been permanent, or whether Northgate was continuing to own the theater and to use Phoenix just as an operator, until they could find a more permanent O&O arrangement for the facility. Given that Phoenix has a number of mall space-conversion theater projects on its books, it may not be the craziest idea. More on the reasons why as they become available.)

Personally, I was always pretty happy with the quality of the work Phoenix did with the cinemas, though they did look noticeably dirtier on our last visit there in June. On the plus side, McCall apparently has an interest in bringing digital entertainment like concert and sporting events to the theater, along with revitalized concessions.

Update: No one's wasting time on this changeover. All the Phoenix signage has been removed from the old Belk's building that houses the theater on Northgate's east side. This morning, a cleaning crew is hard at work in the theater, washing down the lobby and potentially performing other maintenance to the facility. The theater's phone line continues to list Phoenix Theatres showtimes through Thursday; no word as to whether there'll actually be any interruption in showings.



I can't believe no one here has made the connection between what's going on in the south side of the neighborhood (NFSDTP's disgraceful behaviour and the questionable judgement of the TPNA board) and the north side (Northgate's apparent difficulties). C'mon all you closet marxists, it's not only us libertarian types who have paranoia.

Kevin or Gary came close, with the linking of the W. Club bus stop issue to the Park City development; the issue of neighborhood solidarity will be very important in the months to come. I'll give you a hint -- find out whether the parcel next to Tripps is under contract.

I've been in Louisiana for a while; it's so nice to come back home and find a whole week's worth of discussion on BCR. Kevin, I'm 100% agreed about mixed use for Northgate. Thanks for the excellent reporting on this topic.

Chuck Clifton

I apologize in advance for my superficial concerns ...

Any chance McCall might redecorate? While I do like the Phoenix theaters in general, I just never understood the bizarre choice of giant diamonds in those bold elementary school colors. With the magnificent faux leather seats you'd think they might have hired a color consultant. And while they're at it, perhaps they could install a few soft surfaces in the lobby. It feels a little like a gymnasium. Finally, they must never ever ever ever again turn on the fluorescent lights in the theaters. Though it only happened one time, the full 15 minutes before the film started felt like that uncomfortable moment at closing time when bars turn on the brightest lights on earth and announce everyone has to leave.


Echoing the superficial concerns...I see this as good news, since I'll now give the convenient and VERY comfortable theater another try. On my final trip there, the speaker system in the theater was so bad that the dialogue was completely unintelligible. We were told by the manager, no less, that it had been that way all week, and that if we sat near the front center it was better. His response as to why they were still selling tickets in spite of this was merely a shrug.

Peter Boykin


I am the only original manager of the older theatre management. I am the projection management (now trying to do both.)

While I cannot go into any real detail about the change over as that I am not completly all sure myself of all what happened. I came into work that Tue morn and by Tue night we were a new company.

I can say that this new company is so much better and are working really well to get this switch over to go smooth. There will be changes coming in the future.

Right now I would like anyone who has a comment to send me a email at [email protected]

I wanted to answer the comment about the sound problem we had with the audiorium. We kept having a audio driver blow it was repaired 4 times and each time after the tech left it blew we finally got it working again. I appologize. As for the bright lights the Ushers from time to time leave them on and I get on them about it so occasionally it happens. Also sometimes since we have a movie made of 35mm film a movie might become scratched from time to time but we try very hard to keep this from happening.

So occasionally we have things that happen and we try to make do with it. We do care and we appreciate your comments and business.

I hope that everyone comes and says hi to us, thanks again for your business.

one last thing I made us a new web site so come visit it at

Will Kinnay

I am an independent poster with some knowledge of what is going on with your theatre. You now have a group of excellent experienced operators in charge of your location. Give them a little time to get established and you will have an excellent theatre with great service. No, I am not one of the new operators. Good luck to them however and prepare yourself for a great movie experience.

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