The Villa Closes

On 10 February 2003, John Hollenhorst of KSL reported that the Villa Theatre had been sold and that the last showing would be on 18 February 2003.  Although the identity of the new owner was not know, it was said to be "a local businessman who almost certainly will tear the building down."1

Carmike Cinemas, which owned the Villa Theatre since about 1993, was forced to sell the theater after entering bankruptcy on 8 August 2000.  The Villa was the last first-run, single-screen theater in the Salt Lake area, outliving the Centre and Regency theaters by over a decade.  At least two sales on the theater fell through before February 2003.

A couple dozen people stand on the sidewalk in front of the Villa, displaying signs supporting the theater. - , Utah
Supporters carry signs in front of the Villa Theatre during a rally on 15 February 2003.
Grant Smith
15 February 2003

After recieving 50 phone calls and e-mails about the Villa's closing, the Utah Heritage Foundation started a "last-ditch effort" to save the theater.  Speaking of the difficulty of saving the theater at the last minute, Kirk Huffaker, assistant director of the Foundation, said, "We're not here just to save the easy ones."  On 13 February 2003, the Foundation issued an Action Alert, "urging Utahns to contact Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City officials to speak out against the theater's impending closure and possible demolition."2

On 15 February 2003, the Utah Heritage Foundation held a rally in front of the theater and collected the names of 250 supporters.  The purpose of the rally was to "foment public outcry so that it reaches the ears of Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City politicians in time to protect the theater from the crane and bulldozer."3  Protesters carried signs with slogans like, "There's Nothin' Neater than This Theater" and "The Villa is Killa".  Many cars honked as they passed.

Scan of a newspaper advertisement for the Villa Theatre. - , Utah
On Wednesday and Thursday after the Villa closed, Carmike Cinemas put "Closed! Thank you for your business" in the Villa section of the theater chain's newspaper advertisement.
19 February 2003

During the last week that the Villa was open, Carmike Cinemas had all the neon repaired on the sign and entrance.  A problem with the furnace left the theater without heat for a couple days.  A leakly pipe in the boiler room kept breaking.  After being fixed in one spot it would break further up.  It was finally repaired on the 13th.

The last movie to show at the Villa was Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, on 18 February 2003.  A few hundred moviegoers attended the 8:00 P.M. showing, while "hundreds more crowded the parking lot to take photos and get one last look at the Villa while it was still in operation."4

Many lingered in the auditorium after the end of the 8:00 P.M. showing, taking pictures and touring the theater.  The red Cinerama curtains, unused during recent years, were closed over the screen for a final time.  The thousands of feet of neon tubing on the Villa's sign and entrance went dark shortly after midnight.

The neon lighting over the Villa
The neon lighting over the Villa's entrance, in perfect repair, shortly after midnight.  Many people still lingered inside the theater.
Grant Smith
19 February 2003