Saving The Villa Theater
KSL News, 5 July 2001
Some people love movies. Some people love old movie theaters.
Two of the latter kind are organizing an effort and have even set up a web-page called "VillaTheatre.Com" to save Utah's last remaining movie palace.
News Specialist John Hollenhorst has the story.
The Villa Theater. She may be old fashioned. Just one, very big screen, instead of the dozen or more screens that are the rage at multi-plexes.
And the Villa may be a bit tattered around the edges. But she's still grand and fancy. She still attracts a crowd.
And a couple of her fans are hoping their worst fears won't come true.
MARK GULBRANDSEN: "SEEING THE BUILDING GET HIT BY A WRECKING BALL."
No one is sure if that will happen.
The Carmike Cinema chain filed for bankruptcy and put the Villa up for sale. No one knows if a new buyer would show movies or tear it down.
GRANT SMITH/SALT LAKE CITY: "ONCE IT'S GONE WE CAN'T REPLACE IT. WE WON'T EVER SEE ANOTHER THEATER LIKE THIS. IT'S THE ONLY REMANT OF THE PAST MOVIE PALACES WE USED TO HAVE."
JOHN HOLLENHORST REPORTING: "WHAT GIVES THIS THEATER A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE HEARTS OF MOVIEGOERS AND POPCORN LOVERS, IS THAT IN THE 1950'S IT WAS ONE OF THE FEW PLACES YOU COULD GO TO SEE A BRAND-NEW PROCESS CALLED CINERAMA."
"How the West Was Won" is the best-known Cinerama film.
It's a Superwide-screen format, shot simultaneously by three cameras, and projected by three projecters on the Villa's curved screen 40 years ago.
MARK GULBRANDSEN/SALT LAKE CITY: "REAL THREE PROJECTOR CINERAMA IS PROBABLY THE BEST FILM FORMAT THAT EVER EXISTED."
The Cinerama format died young. The Villa may die old.
MARK GULBRANDSEN/SALT LAKE CITY: "A VERY IMPORTANT, AND VANISHING PART OF FILMIC HISTORY. IT NEEDS TO BE PRESERVED."
GRANT SMITH/SALT LAKE CITY: "COURSE IF NO ONE'S GOING TO COME TO THE THEATER, THEN NO ONE'S GOING TO BE ABLE TO KEEP IT OPEN. BUT IF MORE PEOPLE REALIZED WHAT KIND OF A THEATER IT WAS, THEY WOULD COME MORE OFTEN."
The hope is for a movie-loving Sugar Daddy to step in.
That actually happened in Seattle. Billionaire Paul Allen used his Microsoft money to save a Cinerama Theater. There are now just four left.
A Salt Lake businesman has made a bid to buy the theater. He did not return our calls today and neither did the Carmike Cinema chain.