Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Art Theater--and Community

It began simply enough with a request to photograph the interior of Salt Lake City's Tower Theater, but it set in motion a sequence of recommendations for good food.

Walking through the artsy community on the way to the Tower provided a good introduction to the theater and its commu-nity. Purple street lamps signalled "something different" was awaiting us, and the Christmas tree lights wrapped around the lights' poles simply added to our anticipation of what lay ahead.

The influence of the celluloid artistry appeared to have spread from the theater to the surrounding streets. It was matched by the metallic artistry of the sculptures placed on the corners of the intersection near the theater.

But it was the artwork on the front of one of the homes in the neighbor-hood that drove home the connection that people feel toward the community in general and the theater in particular.

The Tower (left in the photo) is featured in this
"community portrait."

Built in 1921, the Tower Theatre is the oldest movie theater in the Salt Lake Valley which is still in operation today.

The theater originally had a facade that resembled the Tower of London, but this was removed in 1950.

In October 1952, the owners intention was " operate the Tower as a truly 'art theater.' We plan an entirely new type of theater operation, patterned after the fine entertainment enterprises so successful in metropolitan centers throughout the United States."

It held that status as an art theater throughout the 60s, but the theater closed in 1988 and stood vacant for a couple years.

Then in 1991, the 480-seat theater reopened after improvements to the projection equipment, the lobby and rest rooms, and electrical and plumbing systems, hoping to recapture the theater's reputation as Salt Lake City's premiere movie art house.

Today the Salt Lake Film Society operates the Tower, which is one of the official venues of the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Independent, foreign, and art films are regularly screened at the Tower, as well as special events such as free midnight movies.

Comments of local moviegoers appearing on show the appreciation for the Tower--even with its flaws. Stewf C wrote: "Perhaps the only remaining SLC theatre with any history or charm, The Tower is an institution. The building and sound system certainly aren't state-of-the-art, but it's one of the few places in the city where one can find independent film. Plus, a good midnight movie weekend every month."

Jason F stated: "The screen is pretty small, there is no digital projection, the sound system really doesn't sound all that great. The seating is not stadium so you get to look at the back of someone's head blocking part of the screen.

"Now having said all that if they were to show the newly restored and recon-structed version of Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece Metropolis, I would be the first person in line. Which is exactly the reason to go to a place like this. To watch a movie I absolutely cannot find anywhere else."

One of the (I think, volunteer) staff, Clayton, gave us a brief history of the Tower and showed us a scrapbook with newspaper ads for the Tower and other theaters from the 1920s and 30s. He embodied the enthusiasm and dedication of the volunteers who love showing the work of independent filmakers in an historic theater.

And it was Clayton who provided us with a recommendation for lunch that was just around the corner.

On our way to lunch we caught one last bit of whimsy in this bicycle rack (red metal structure, left) in the form of a bicycle and rider.

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