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Karen Newell Young
Movie magic to return to Nevada City
Theater is expanding and changing its name
Two new restrooms will flank two new screens, improved equipment and larger chairs will be installed and an enlarged concession stand will offer more items to eat than before.

Film buffs needn’t worry, however. The Magic Theatre in Nevada City won’t go all Hollywood.

“We’ll never show big blockbusters,” said Celine Negrete, manager of the theater on Argall Way since 2010. “We are an art house theater, showing independent films, documentaries and art movies. We won’t change the kinds of films we offer.”

Closed for remodeling since May, the 25-year-old Magic Theatre has been renamed the Onyx. In honoring the original, the Onyx will retain touches of the Magic, as well as the name for one of the screening rooms: It will comprise two auditoriums, one called the Magic and the other the Dream Theatre. It is expected to reopen in September.

Also, touches of the original theater will remain in the new building, including movie posters formerly adorning the screening room.

“Lots of people have memories and connections and we wanted to keep that alive,” Negrete said.

“It’s unusual to have an art house in such a small, rural community,” she added. “The contribution to our local culture has been huge and we wanted to honor that.”

Moses Jones, the contractor for the theater renovation, has fond memories of The Magic when it was located in the United Methodist Church on the top of Broad Street in Nevada City.

“I went to The Magic when I was seven or eights years old to see Beatles movies,” said Jones, owner of Webbe Jones Joinery. “I remember folding chairs and the smell of coffee and cookies.”

He said when he was in high school in the 1980s, he went to The Magic at a space above shops on Commercial Street.

“By then it was a cooler place that showed classic cartoons, independent films and had couches for lounging. We thought it was the greatest movie experience ever,” he said.

Negrete said the driving factor for the remodel was her and the owner Jeff Clark’s love of films. “There isn’t anything else I’d rather do,” she said.

“Over the 16 years I’ve had the pleasure of owning the Magic we’ve constantly made improvements, but I’m most proud of and excited about this metamorphosis,” said Clark, who has owned the Magic since he bought it in 2001.

“The Magic will still literally be inside The Onyx, but now we’re going to give people an opportunity to experience going to the movies in a new more comfortable and very fun way,” he added.

Negrete said having two screens will allow more flexibility and variety in the offerings at the Onyx.

“It’s very difficult to use a single screen,” she said. “We will have the opportunity to show different films at once so customers have a wider variety.”

An example of the limitations of a single screen was during last year’s “Moonlight” run. Negrete had booked the soon-to-be Oscar winner before the Oscar nominations and before the buzz. But the Magic had to let the movie go before the height of its local popularity because it had another movie in the pipeline.

“Now with two screens it could run as long as it needed to run,” Negrete said.

We were also guided by the idea of wanting to make the best movie experience possible,” she added. “With comfortable seats, new equipment and the same friendly staff. I wanted the theater to have all of those things.”

“The magic has been a wonderful place to see films and we finally were able to make the commitment to move forward,” Negrete said.
An artist’s rendering of the renovated and enlarged Onyx, which will house two auditoriums under one roof, doubling the space of the original theater.