Going against all the trends of the movie theater industry, Carmike Cinemas
closed the Villa theater in 1996 and restored the theater to much of its
former splendor. Like most old theaters, the 46-year old building
was starting to show its age. Dennis Lythgoe, a columnist for
the Deseret News, wrote:
More than two
years ago, I complained in print about the scary evidence of decay
at the Villa. The seats were unsittable, the murals had
faded, the walls were scarred, the carpet worn and the concession
stand was falling apart. The restrooms were not only
inadequate, they were barely sanitary.
marquee was dilapidated and only partially lighted. The
parking lot was a mess.
20 February 1997, page C1
While other theater chains would have closed the theater, Carmike Cinemas
showed their commitment to the Villa by renovating almost the entire building. To
make the remodeling even more atypical the main auditorium was not split,
no additional auditoriums were built onto the side of the theater, and
the huge curved screen was not replaced with a flat screen.
Perhaps the most important upgrade was replacement of all the theater's
seats. The Villa had 1300 seats when it opened in 1949, but
after the Cinerama was installed in 1961 the seating dropped to about
1000. By 1996, the number of seats had dwindled to 860, most
of which were worn-out and considered "unsittable" by some.
Carmike installed news seats and restored the number to 1000. Although
the seats are much more comfortable, the style of the seats makes the
theater seems more cramped. Cup-holders attached to the back
of the seats cause an obstacle for moviegoers as they walk along the row. Because
each row is its own flat surface, with a slight rise between each level,
the distance between rows could not be increased.
The theater's sound system was replaced with a new Dolby Digital system. The
six sets of original surround speakers were removed and replaced new speakers
that more completely envelop the auditorium.
The entire theater was recarpeted and the lobby and concessions stand
were refurbished. The box office was enlarged to allow for
a second ticket window. The marquee was restored and new neon
poster cases were install at the front entrance. The parking
lot was repaved. Wheelchair seating was added in the lower
section in the auditorium and a handicap restroom was added in the lobby.
In his 1997 article, Dennis Lythgoe complained of noise levels in the
lobby carrying into the auditorium.
is that any talking in the lobby, even in low tones, is carried
into the auditorium and easily heard above the sophisticated new
That is because
there are only two flimsy curtains separating the lobby from the
auditorium. There is a compelling need to replace the curtains with
20 February 1997, page C1
Sometime after this article was written, Carmike installed French doors
in the halls leading into the auditorium to keep noise from the lobby
from interfering with the enjoyment of the movie.
The last modification to the theater came on 27 September 1998, when
a traffic accident on Highland drive sent a motorcycle crashing through
the front doors of the theater. The six huge herculite doors
with their "sashes of stainless steel" were shattered by the
impact. The theater was closed for the day and all six glass
doors were replaced.