Carmike Sells the Villa?
On 8 August 2000, Carmike Cinemas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the
United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Carmike,
along with Cineplex Odeon and Reel Theaters who also filed for bankruptcy,
suffered financially from the multiplex building trend that has recently
swept the industry.
In the fall of 2000, two Salt Lake area theaters leased by Carmike were
closed and the Villa was put up for sale. Consolidated Theaters
reopened the Plaza theater (originally the Mann 6) as a discount theater
in spring 2001. The Creekside theaters (originally Mann 5-6-7)
by Cottonwood Mall are still vacant.
On the week of 28 May 2001, the Enterprise, a weekly business newspaper,
published a front-page story titled "Carmike wants to sell Villa
Theatre for $2.4 million." The article said that Carmike
planned to sell the theater to a local businessman and that "should
there be any competing offers, they will be considered May 30 in the New
York City offices of Carmike's bankruptcy counsel. A hearing
to approve any sale will be held the following day." The
sale apparently fell through by November, because of restrictions on the
If the Villa Theatre is sold it seems unlikely that its new owner would
want to run it as a movie theater. The Villa has outlived all
other first-run single screen theaters in Salt Lake by over 10 years, and
in today's market it seems difficult for any theater with less than 12 screens
to stay open.
going out and building a single-screen theater -- it's just not cost-effective,''
said Philip Smitley, assistant vice president for Carmike Cinemas,
which owns 2,700 screens in 36 states, including 55 along the Wasatch
Front. The only single-screen houses left are relics, like Salt Lake's
Villa or Provo's Academy (both owned, by the way, by Carmike).
Even the six-
or eight-screen multiplex of a few years ago is too small. These
days, it's double digits -- 14 or 16 or even 24 -- or it's nothing.
destiny" by Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune, 19 July 1998,
In 1989, the 1173-seat Centre theater in downtown Salt Lake was demolished
to make way for a 13-story office building and a 6 screen theater. The
800-seat Regency theater changed to a discount theater shortly after and
was later remodeled into an office building.
The Villa is
another theater whose days could be numbered. With almost 1,000
seats and a 70-foot-wide screen, the Villa has been the place to
see the ``Indiana Jones'' movies and other blockbusters. While it
still attracts a crowd, the grand dame has been looking rundown
in recent years, leading to more speculation that it will join the
Centre and Regency as movie palaces to bite the dust.
still outgrosses other theaters showing the same film,'' says Mr.
Tella, obviously fond of the theater he once managed. "But
over the long haul, it is a dinosaur. When you consider operating
expenses, a single-auditorium facility is unrealistic.''
Movies; What Plays in Utah" by Terry Orme, Salt Lake Tribune,
08/16/1992, page E1
Four years after this article was written, Carmike Cinemas renovated
the Villa, restoring the theater to most of its former glory. Despite
Carmike's commitment to the theater, attendance at the Villa has declined.
There are just too many screens in the Salt Lake area. Since
1998, three large multiplexes have been built and a fourth should be complete
this fall. These four theaters alone have added 67 screens. In
about the same time period, 34 older screens have closed and not reopened.
theater, left, was demolished in 1989 and replaced by an office
building and a generic 6-plex. The Utah,
right, lost most of its beautiful ornamentation when a floor was
added to split the balcony into a separate theater. It
has been vacant for several years.
Photos used by permission, Utah State Historical
Society, all rights reserved.
In 1989, Chris Hicks wrote the following of the Centre Theater's closing:
can still gather some of that special magic that comes from sitting
in a darkened room surrounded by strangers watching images flicker
on a huge screen, but 1,000 people all sharing and emotion is certainly
more invigorating than 500 or 200 or 20.
It's sad to
see the Centre leave because that's one less such showplace in Salt
Lake City. And because it perhaps marks the end of an
And it's one
step closer to all of Salt Lake's cardboard cutout crackerbox theaters
being the rule rather than the exception.
22 January 1989, page E10
Part of the building craze that has caused so many theater chains to
go bankrupt has been a push for large auditoriums, stadium seating, and
large curved screens - all features that the Villa has had for over 40
years. The new movie theaters of today are trying to recapture
the glory of the past. The Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons has
even gone as far as to line the theater lobby with building fronts that
resemble downtown Salt Lake of years past. The auditoriums
are grouped together under marquees bearing the names of long-gone Salt
Lake theaters, such as the Centre.
With all this trend towards the grand movie palaces of the past, it would
be a shame if we lost the genuine article. The Villa is the
most unique theater in Salt Lake, and it's in almost perfect condition. It's
completely and totally irreplaceable. If it closes, we will
never see another theater like it ever again.