The Villa Closes
by Grant Smith, 11 August
On 10 February 2003, John Hollenhorst
of KSL reported that the Villa Theatre had been sold and
that the last showing
would be on 18 February 2003. Although the identity of the
new owner was not know, it was said to be "a local businessman
who almost certainly will tear the building down."1
Carmike Cinemas, which owned the Villa Theatre since about
1993, was forced to sell the theater after entering bankruptcy
on 8 August 2000. The Villa was the last first-run,
single-screen theater in the Salt Lake area, outliving the
Centre and Regency theaters by over a decade. At least
two sales on the theater fell through before February 2003.
Colliers International listed the "Former Villa Theater
for sale" for months while the theater was still in operation.
Protestors carry signs in front of
the Villa Theatre during the rally on 15 February
Photo by Grant Smith, 15 February
After recieving 50 phone calls and e-mails about the Villa's
closing, the Utah Heritage Foundation started a "last-ditch
effort" to save the theater. Speaking of the difficulty
of saving the theater at the last minute, Kirk Huffaker,
assistant director of the Foundation, said, "We're
not here just to save the easy ones." On 13 February
2003, the Foundation issued an Action Alert, "urging
Utahns to contact Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City officials
speak out against
the theater's impending closure and possible demolition."2
On 15 February 2003, the Utah Heritage Foundation held a
front of the theater and collected the names of 250 supporters. The
purpose of the rally was to "foment public outcry so that
it reaches the ears of Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City
politicians in time to protect the theater from the crane and
carried signs with slogans like, "There's Nothin' Neater
than This Theater" and "The Villa is Killa". Many cars honked as they passed.
During the last week the
Villa was open, Carmike Cinemas repaired all the neon
on the theater's sign and entrance and also a leaking
pipe in the boiler room which took the heating system
down for a couple days.
Photo by Grant Smith, 18 February 2003
last ticket sold at the Villa Theatre before Carmike
Cinemas closed the theater on 18 February 2003.
During the last week that the Villa was open, Carmike Cinemas
had all the neon repaired on the sign and entrance. A
problem with the furnace left the theater without heat for
a couple days. A
leakly pipe in the boiler room kept breaking. After
being fixed in one spot it would
break further up. It
was finally repaired on the 13th.
The last movie to show at the Villa was Lord of the
Rings: The Two Towers, on 18 February
2003. A few hundred moviegoers attended the 8:00 P.M.
showing, while "hundreds more crowded the parking lot
to take photos and get one last look at the Villa while it
Many lingered in the auditorium after the end of the 8:00
P.M. showing, taking pictures and touring the theater. The
red Cinerama curtains, unused during recent years, were closed
over the screen for a final time. The thousands of
feet of neon tubing on the Villa's sign and entrance went
dark shortly after midnight.
The newspaper advertisement for the Villa Theatre on
the last day it was open, 18 February 2003.
On Wednesday and Thursday after the Villa closed, Carmike
Cinemas put "Closed! Thank you for your business" in the
Villa section of the theater chain's newspaper advertisement.
Theatre to Close",
KSL TV News, 10 February 2003
Foundation Plans Rally to Save Villa Theatre", Salt Lake Tribune, 14 February 2003
Targets Inevitable Phrase The End on Villa Theatre Screen", Salt Lake Tribune, 16 February
goes dark a final time",
Deseret News, 19 February 2003