To walk through the grand polished-wood and etched-glass doors of the Minor Theatre is to straddle the past and the future.
Staircases descend into the small, warmly appointed lobby, filled with ornate items from a bygone era: historic photos, a grandfather clock and a typewriter on which customers peck out cheery thoughts and poems.
The Minor feels intoxicatingly historic. An early icon of the Arcata skyline, entrepreneur Isaac Minor's theater was completed in December of 1914 and residents packed into its opening night showing of the silent film The Chimes. The theater changed hands over the ensuing decades, closing for stretches of up to 10 years at a time, before being revived by eager Humboldt State University students who restored the theater in the 1970s and ran it until the mid 2000s. The Minor remains the oldest operating theater in the U.S. specifically built for cinema, and in its bones are ghost stories, tall tales and a deep sense of community pride.
The Minor changed hands again in 2016 and its new owners Josh Neff and Merrick McKinlay have reinvested in the theater, hoping to kindle quirky Arcata's love of film. To wit, they've tapped into the college town's interest in both the mainstream and the off the wall. The pair want to bring an art house sensibility bringing a selection of foreign, independent and avant-garde movies that most small towns would never see grace their marquees. But that doesn't mean they don't enjoy a blockbuster — a line formed around the block for the opening of Dr. Strange, so you might want to get tickets online to avoid sell-outs. The Minor is for lovers — movie lovers.
What really butters the popcorn is the rebooted Minor's state-of-the-art projectors, audio and screens, as well as spacious, comfortable new seating. Neither newcomers nor regulars will miss the old theater style seating when you can sink into cushy armchairs with a beer and pizza that you didn't even have to sneak in.
Following a trend in independent cinema houses, the Minor offers more than the standard theater fare: locally made hot dogs, pizza, candy, cookies and more. And popcorn, of course. Pro tip: a local IPA and a green chile empanada from Slice of Humboldt Pie is the movie snack you never knew you needed. And the Minor's hip staff will bring it to you in your seat, with barely an interruption.
Get lost in the Minor's charms: The marquee glitters up downtown nights for blocks, the balcony seating is a kick and even the bathrooms feel cinematic. This writer's love affair with the Minor goes back three decades, when summer boredom spelled repeat viewings of sci-fi and action matinees. In some tucked away box are collected ticket stubs revealing the hundreds (thousands?) of hours spent eating Junior Mints under flicker of the theater's projector. Those were the old days. Welcome to the Minor's Golden Age.