Villa Theatre
3092 Highland Drive
Salt Lake City, Utah


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 Home  »  History  »  1996 Renovation  »  "Villa Ready for Comeback"

Deseret News, 31 May 1996, page D9:

Villa Ready for Comeback as a New Movie Star

By Max B. Knudson, Business Editor

If you thought the closure of the Villa Theater earlier this month meant the last Salt Lake movie palace had gone the way of the Centre, the Utah, the Regency and other "full size" theaters, Carmike Cinemas has good news for you:  The 46-year-old Villa is alive, well, totally refurbished to its former splendor and once again open for your cinematic pleasure.

And no, it has not been converted into a gigaplex.  Bucking the trend of the past 20 years, Carmike has actually increased the number of seats in the theater from 860 to 1,000.

More importantly, they are new, state-of-the-art seats, noted Mark Balsinger, city manager for Carmike, based in Columbus, Ga.

Many Villa patrons in recent years have been willing to overlook the overall deterioration of the theater but could no longer ignore the worn-out seats.

One longtime patron declared two weeks ago she would never again belly up to the Villa's box office because the theater's seats were "unsittable." Ironically, the day following her "final" visit, the theater closed for the much-needed refurbishing.

The first phase in the Villa's renaissance began months ago with the installation of a new electronic sign similar to the original marquee that beckoned movie mavens when the theater opened in 1949. The remainder of the renovation was completed this month and includes:

- Doubling the size of the box office.
- Installation of a new exterior canopy, new lighting and neon poster cases.
- Recarpeting of the entire theater interior.
- Installation of 1,000 "premium" seats, complete with drink holders.
- New track lighting on the main floor and step lighting in the loge.
- Refurbishing of the movie screen.
- Installation of a new Dolby Digital sound system.
- Remodeling of the restrooms and repaving of the parking lot remains to be completed.

Balsinger declined to say how much money Carmike has spent on the renovations but assured, "People will see the results when they get here."

Invited guests got a sneak preview of the remodeling Thursday night at reopening ceremonies that included refreshments catered by La Caille, a walk-through and a screening of Whoopi Goldberg's new movie "Eddie."

"Eddie" will be shown to the public beginning Friday and runs through June 20, followed by the new Disney animation film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

The trend in theater construction over the past 20 years has been to smaller theaters in a multiplex layout offering a variety of films to audiences of 100 or so.

While that still may be the rule, Balsinger says there is room in the market for a few large theaters.

"We're putting in a new theater in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with 600 seats in a stadium format . . . the seats gradually rise toward the rear," he said.

The Villa opened for business on Dec. 21, 1949, and for years was the premiere first-run theater in the Salt Lake suburbs.  In 1961, the Villa introduced Salt Lakers to Cinerama, a 91-foot-wide screen - at the time the largest in the world - that was intended to lure people away from their (black and white) television sets and into the theater.