Magna Theater Nears the Reopening 'Stage'
By Maureen Evans
Deseret News, 11 August 1991, Page A1
Leo Wares became the owner of the Empress Theatre in 1983 after trading for it in a real estate deal. He has spent the last eight years refurbishing the 236-seat theater and hopes to re-open it for family-oriented plays within 60 days. The Empress Theatre was built in 1916 and became a movie house in 1917. It is listed on the National Historical Registry.
Improvements to the exterior of the building were funded by grants from Salt Lake County, the National Park Service, and the Utah Division of State History. Wares has invested $30,000 in the renovation and has worked for hundreds of hours to rip up tile, remove paint from brick and wood, tear down and erect interior walls, replace floors and repair the ceiling.
About the hard work of remodeling the theater, Wares said, “It's only work if you'd rather be doing something else. I'd rather be doing this.”
In 1983, Leo Wares was 68 and lived in East Millcreek. During World War II he entertained troups with magic. An actor since about 1941, he often participated in productions at the Hale Center Theatre in Salt Lake City.