Ghosts of Carson: Carson Stadium Cinemas

Ghosts of Carson is a series that looks at the empty and unused buildings of Carson City.

Carson City has had many movie theaters over the years. Most of them have ended up in the dustbin of history. I wrote about the history of them many years ago. There were a couple downtown in the 40s and 50s. In the 70s new theaters opened at Frontier Plaza and out Hwy 50 next to where Grocery Outlet is now. But all of those only had one or two screens. In 1980, a new modern multiplex opened. The Northgate Movies was located in the Northgate Plaza shopping center, and it had a whole 4 screens! The other “new” theaters stayed open until the 90s, but the Northgate Movies was Carson City’s main movie house for almost 3 decades.


It didn’t last, though. In 2007 a newcomer came to town. Casino Fandango at the south end of town announced that they were building a brand-new, all-digital theater on Curry Street. Just as the Northgate Movies had replaced the other theaters, now Northgate was being replaced. The new Galaxy Theaters at Fandango opened in August 2007, and by October Northgate was announcing that they were converting to a discount second-run theater.

October 2007

But that was just a temporary stopgap. In February 2008 they finally threw in the towel and decided to close. Even at a discount price, nobody was going to see movies there anymore.

The theater was closed for the next two years, and that could have been the end of the story — until Bloomhuff Theatres came along. They decided to take a chance on the building, and in 2010 reopened it as the Carson Stadium Cinemas. It was still a discount cinema, but with a little bit of a price increase. $3 for second-run movies. Despite it failing at its first attempt at competing against the Fandango, people during the recession must have been more open to a value theater. This new incarnation of the theater was able to stay open for over a decade.

But again, nothing can last. Movie theaters were hit hard during the pandemic, considering that being in an enclosed space with strangers wasn’t high on most people’s to-do list. The theater held on for a little bit, and almost made it through the pandemic, but in October of 2022 the doors were locked and the movies stopped showing. It’s now been almost 2 years and the doors are still locked. Will this movie house ever reopen or is this the end of the story? There’s no way for us to know, but we can at least take a look at the state of the building as it is now.

Nothing is coming soon or showing now.

The lobby looks a little dusty, but bring in some popcorn and it could be ready to reopen.

One feature of the building was that it had retail/office space attached, hoping to take advantage of that theater foot traffic. These spaces are now empty too.

I believe I remember a comic shop being in this storefront in the 90s.

The theater opened with 4 screens, but it didn’t stay that meager through its whole history. This portion of the building to the left was an addition that was built in the mid 90s. Inside these cinder block walls they built 6 more theaters, bringing the total number to 10. This was the beginning of the megaplex era, and they felt they needed to keep up. These additional screens weren’t quite to the same quality as the original 4, though. The first 4 screens were in nice large auditoriums that could house a blockbuster crowd, and around the same time as they expanded they also converted those 4 to raised stadium seating. The other 6 theaters were definitely smaller affairs. They were down a narrow winding hallway. Some of the theaters could scarcely seat more than a few dozen people. All the seats were at ground level. You could definitely tell that they were added on later, and several weird choices were made in their construction. These were definitely the lesser theaters, and you felt a little disappointed when you found out the movie you were seeing wasn’t in one of the main 4.

These screens did not reopen during the conversion to a discount theater. When the Carson Stadium Cinemas opened in 2010, the hallway to these 6 small theaters was fenced off and they went back to only having 4 screens available. It was probably for the best. This wing has now been unused since 2007.

The theater opened in 1980, but this land has a history of showing movies that goes beyond that. This aerial photo from the mid 1900s shows how small Carson City was back then. But if you notice, at the very bottom of the photo, there is a curved clearing just below the Hot Springs Road intersection. This was the Sky-Vue Drive-In theater, Carson City’s first drive-in theater (the second one was down where Trader Joe’s is now). It opened in 1953, but by the late 60s the Warehouse Market had been built on part of the site, and the drive-in was looking abandoned.


The land where the bulk of the drive-in used to stand is still empty, just next to the cinema.

So for now the Carson Stadium Cinemas sits empty and unused. The signs are still up, but with so many movies being on streaming now, and even the big theaters struggling, it may not be likely to reopen. Let’s finish our photo tour of the building while we wonder what the future might hold.


    • Back in 1980 -82 the arcade was called Stargames (opened as Stargate, but had copyright issues, so had to change the name).

  1. So the main question is, how much for the building now… especially with the thought of redesigning it into something completely different?

  2. Hahaha yes a comic shop who would hold old tickets so the poor kids could get in. I snuck in 100s of times. A cute boy took me on a private tour. Like up to the movie play room nothing naughty just sweet. For my birthday.

  3. Hey Scott!

    I have some rather exhaustive pictures of the interior of this place during 2020 when there was no one there but it was still in operation.

    Let me know if you’d like for me to share them with you for archiving purposes. I really admire your work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *