Villa Theatre
3092 Highland Drive
Salt Lake City, Utah


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 Home  »  History  »  Failed Sale of 2001

Failed Sale of 2001

In 1998, Century Theaters demolished its twin domed theaters in Salt Lake City and replaced them with a new 16-screen multiplex with stadium seating, digital sound, and THX certification in each auditorium.  This was the beginning of a multiplex building spree that added 84 screens in 5 new theaters by 2002 and forced nearly every Salt Lake area movie theater built prior to 1998 out of the first-run movie business*.

On 8 August 2000, Carmike Cinemas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.  Like many other theater chains across the country, Carmike suffered financially from spending too much on building expensive new multiplexes without first closing older, under-performing theaters.

As part of the bankruptcy, Carmike Cinemas was able to terminate the leases on two Salt Lake area theaters, the Plaza 5400 and Creekside Cinemas, but because Carmike owned the Villa it remained open while the theater chain tried to sell the property.

On 28 May 2001, the Enterprise newspaper reported that reported that Carmike Cinemas planned to sell the Villa Theatre to local businessman Edmond Simantov for $2.4 million.  "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."1

In 1970, at the age of 14, Eddie Simantov left his native Iran and came to live with an uncle in Salt Lake City.  He attended Judge Memorial High School and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Mathematics.2

Eddie and his brother Jack started selling Oriental rugs while they ran a clothing store in downtown Salt Lake.  They purchased the rugs from their father, who was in the Oriental rug and antique business in Iran, and then wholesaled them to interior designers.  Oriental rugs were becoming popular at the time and the brothers eventually stopped selling clothing.

In 1980 the Simantovs moved their successful rug gallery into a larger store at 165 E. 200 South, but their business kept growing and they soon felt the need for more space.  In 1988 they bought old Pembroke Building at 50 E. 300 South, which became the Exchange Place Garage.  They later purchased the Felt Building at 341 S. Main with several partners in Los Angeles, and in 1990 they purchased the Commercial Club Building at 32 Exchange Place.

In 1992, Eddie Simantov wanted to turn a 52-year-old post office building in Sugar House into a gallery selling "bronze statues, artifacts and oriental rugs."  A local artists group, the Sugar House Arts Center, also wanted to purchase the property and use it for "public art classes, for exhibits and for lectures."3

In May 1996, the Simantov Oriental Rug Gallery moved to the Felt Building, occupying 15,000 square feet on the first floor and basement.  The gallery features hand-made rugs from Iran, India, China, Pakistan, and the Navajo Indians; and vases, pots, and figurines from Hong Kong and China.  "All of the items the brothers purchase go to a store in Los Angeles, currently operated by Jack, and then it is shipped to Salt Lake City."2

By November 2001, the sale of the Villa Theatre to Eddie Simantov and his partners had fallen through.  Although we don't know what use they had in mind for the Villa, it would not have been a movie theater.  The sale included a stipulation that the building could not be operated as a movie theater unless Carmike Cinemas was the operator.  At the time, Carmike still operated the Cottonwood Mall Theater in the same distribution zone as the Villa.  (The Cottonwood Mall Theater later closed in February 2002.)

If the Simantovs had purchased the Villa, the building would probably have been well cared for.  In July 1993, Eddie Simantov accepted an award in urban design from the Downtown Alliance for a $1.2 million renovation on the Felt Building "that helped revive the south end of the downtown area."4  In September 1996, the Simantovs began a $1.4 million renovation project on the Commercial Club, which is part of the Exchange Place Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.5

In a 1992 Deseret News article, Eddie Simantov was quoted as saying, "I love old buildings and antiques.  They go with what I want to do a lot better. I hate new buildings."3

1. Enterprise Newspaper, 28 May 2001
2. "Looming Large: Simantov Rug Gallery Moves to Bigger Digs in the Felt Building", Deseret News, 16 June 1996
3. "Debate Looms Over Future of Old Sugar House Post Office," Deseret News, 28 September 1992, page B1
4. "Downtown Improvement Awards Given", Deseret News, 29 July 1993, page D7
5. "Commercial Club Building To Get Face Lift", Deseret News, 2 September 1996, page B4