Vanishing movie houses

By Jeff Vice, staff writer
Deseret News, 7 November 1997, page W1

Article Summary:

Financial survival for independent movie houses has been particularly hard this year, and not just because of still competition from major theater chains, which continue to build multi-screen theater complexes throughout the state.  Independents have struggled over the past few years to book movies appropriate for all ages which would also bring in a crowd.   Just one bad week can significantly hurt an independent theater.

Avalon Theater

  • Art Proctor actually owns the Avalon, not operating a business on a site owned by someone else
  • Proctor worked in theaters for more than 50 years and is “the elder statesman among Salt Lake theater owners”
  • offers a Saturday night hypnotism show from Don Spencer
  • offers have tempted Proctor to sell the Avalon
  • “It never used to be so hard to find product, but it seems like Hollywood doesn't have any interest in making good, clean movies anymore.” (Art Proctor)
  • on some weeks, Proctor will show a classic movie (many of which he owns on 16mm) rather than settle for whatever movies are available at the time

Murray Theater

  • Tom Henderson has operated the Murray for the past five years, site is owned by someone else
  • it isn't feasible to hire a lot of outside employees
  • “To survive in this business, you do what you have to. And that includes doing a lot of the dirty work yourself.” (Tom Henderson)
  • “The movie theater chains ... can keep their films on some screens almost until they go to (home video). And then we've got to contend with the dollar houses just to get what movies remain.” (Tom Henderson)
  • Henderson hopes to work out an exclusive arrangement to show locally made movies produced by Feature Films for Families, a home video distribution company based in Murray

Tower Theatre

  • Greg Tanner, operator
  • struggles under financial burdens accrued from its earlier incarnations as the Blue Mouse and Cinema in Your Face
  • has niche for foreign films and “arthouse cinema”
  • has a video rental business
  • “We're trying to target a more upscale audience - a college-age or educated crowd - with what we bring in. Our target audience has more specialized tastes.” (Greg Tanner)
  • “We're constantly dancing on the edge of closing.” (Greg Tanner)
  • is currently looking for a major investor to help balance financial problems
  • “When you still owe (distributors) money, it's hard to get the best films from them. There's no question that we've lost out on getting some movies we wanted because of our financial standing.” (Greg Tanner)

Blue Mouse

  • Art Proctor once owned the Blue Mouse and gave Greg Tanner his start there