Villa Theatre
3092 Highland Drive
Salt Lake City, Utah


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 Home  »  History  »  Six Months After Closing

Six Months After Closing

By Grant Smith, 18 August 2003

Six months have passed since the Villa Theatre's final showing of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on 18 February 2003.  Weeds have grown up through the seams of the red concrete surrounding the theater's sign and entrance.  The terrazzo floor by the front doors is unswept and littered with dirt and debris blown in by the wind.  One of the back doors has been vandalized in an apparent attempt to break into the idle theater.

Why would anyone want to break inside?  The theater has already been stripped clean.  The seats, along with their infamous cupholders, have all been removed.  The 78-foot curved screen, with its five JBL speakers and four subwoofers, is no longer there.  Carmike even took the french doors it installed in 1996 to keep noise from the lobby from entering the auditorium.

Many people look at the closing of the Villa as an inevitable event - a sign that it's time to move on and do something different with the property.  The Villa, however, was built as a theater and that's the function it's best suited for.  With the right management and business strategy in place, the Villa could resume its place as profitable movie palace.

Yet, those who would like to see the Villa reopen as a theater have not been given the chance to try.  A local theater chain interested in the Villa did not even get the courtesy of a return phone call.  A representative of another organization was visiting Salt Lake in May, but was not allowed access to the building to put together an estimate for a grand restoration of the theater.

The problem is that shortly after Harmons Grocery bought the Villa in February, a second sale started.  Until this sale is concluded, with either a successful closing or by falling through, all other interested parties can do nothing but wait.  The buyer is apparently trying to fund the purchase, in part, by pre-selling rental space in two new retail buildings planned for the 1300 East side of the parking lot.

The new buyers say they are sensitive to the historic significance of the Villa and intend to leave as much of the original structures in place as possible, including the historic front façade and sign.  The stage and its original draperies would be restored, but the Villa would no longer be a theater.  The buyer believes that their intended use of the building will bring new life and a fresh renaissance, not only to the Villa, but also to the future of evening entertainment in Salt Lake City.

But if the Villa is not given a chance to be a theater again, then some great opportunities will have been lost.  The recent explosion of multiplex theaters has been fueled by a desire to return to the glorious movie palaces of the past.  The Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons features a cityscape lobby with auditoriums grouped together under flashy neon marquees bearing the names of past Salt Lake theaters.  The old-style halls of the Cinemark 24 at Jordan Landing feature bear photos of old theaters and actors. 

Yet at 3092 Highland Drive we have an authentic movie palace, just waiting to make a come-back.  Let's give it a chance.