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Tower Theatre Update

TOWER THEATRE PLANNING UPDATES

This page was last updated on July 15, 2024

 Our goal is to update this page quarterly. Please check back frequently.

We extend our deep gratitude to all who have inquired about and continue to love the Tower. SLFS remains 100% committed to preserving this unique and wonderful cinematic gem.

WHY IS THE TOWER NOT OPEN?

Strengthening Tower Theatre for the Next 100 Years

We have exciting updates about our cherished 1928 Tower Theatre.

Since purchasing the Tower Theatre in December 2022, thanks to a generous grant from the Alternative Visions Fund, Salt Lake Film Society (SLFS) has been dedicated to ensuring this beloved landmark thrives for many more generations of cinema lovers. After the purchase, a thorough assessment revealed the Tower needs essential TLC for its long-term safety and sustainability. We are reaching out to foundational donors who are passionate about historic spaces, the environment, and changing the world and are thrilled to steward the Tower Theatre: Next 100 Years project. The Tower, in its current condition, cannot be opened for operations, and is not in a condition to be inhabited for cinema presentations at this time. 

Here’s what’s happening and why planning is such a big deal:

To ensure the building’s longevity, SLFS is planning significant structural repairs and upgrades. This is a major undertaking because we want to do it right and preserve the Tower Theatre’s historic charm. It is not merely a quick fix; it requires careful planning, skilled work, and a significant budget/fundraising plan of action. Over the next 3-5 years, our dedicated team will meticulously develop a capital plan, architectural vision, and fundraising strategy to realize the Tower as an environmentally responsible cultural hub for nostalgic, modern, and uncensored cinematic experiences.

Over the years, even the sturdiest structures need a little extra support. Although SLFS has operated Tower Theatre as a steward for 23 years, we have only in the past 18 months, as new owners, been able to address these more substantial opportunities. For 23 years, SLFS, as a rental tenant, maintained the Tower Theatre on a limited budget, relying on generous patrons and donors to keep it running. This included installing new carpeting, ADA viewing areas, roofing, projection systems, sound systems, screens, plaster repairs, HVAC systems, and more.

Following the purchase of the Tower, SLFS engaged engineers and architects to assess and envision the future of this historic space. Structural evaluations revealed the need for safety and sustainability in critical areas. Professionals found structural deflections and visible cracks in the proscenium. The beam/truss supporting the roof of the Tower, and the proscenium head where the screen resides were deemed to need steel reinforcement, prompting a significant change for the building’s auditorium area. Additionally, significant overhaul of electrical systems, HVAC renovations, plumbing, roofing, and ADA access evaluations are required. 

This planning presents opportunities to improve this safe space for accessibility, to renew screen size and cinema technology, and to focus on long-term sustainable and environmental preservation of the cinema. Thanks to Alternative Visions Fund, the Tower project will pursue an environmentally responsible path.

We are excited to have finally started this process as owners of the building. While the project will take time, we are committed to preserving the Tower Theatre as a cinematic home for our community. We are starting with foundational donors who can bring substantial resource to the project. If you or your business would like to be involved in the Tower Theatre: Next 100 Years project as a lead donor, please contact us at info@saltlakefilmsociety.org.

SLFS promises to continue offering Tower programming at Broadway Centre Cinemas, including our popular Tower of Terror series each fall.

We express our sincere gratitude to all who have engaged with us about the future of The Tower. Please continue to support SLFS’s mission to exhibit, create, and preserve cinematic experiences by becoming a Red Carpet Club sustainer at SLFStix.org/donate.

With love, 

SLFS staff, board, advisory committees, and volunteers

THE TIMELINE

THE PROJECT HISTORY

The Tower Theatre, a 1928 movie house, holds many mysteries and secrets. For 23 years, SLFS rented the Tower Theatre, limiting our potential to invest in the building. In 2021, we planned a modest renovation, but the historic complexity of the building escalated costs. During this time, the Utah Theatre was being demolished, prompting SLFS to purchase the Tower to preserve it for future generations.

In December 2022, after lengthy negotiations and support from the Alternative Visions Fund, SLFS purchased the Tower. By March 2024, we proudly owned the building free and clear, thanks to generous leading support from Alternative Visions Fund. This monumental achievement aligns with our preservation mission, ensuring cinematic adventures continue at the Tower for generations. Building its future will require community support and a major capital campaign.

THE VISIONING PROGRESS

Since acquiring the Tower Theatre in December 2022, the Salt Lake Film Society (SLFS) has been hard at work, collaborating with arts leaders, board members, staff, and community partners to shape the future of the Tower Theatre: Next 100 Years Project. Our goal is to transform the 1928 Tower Theatre into an environmentally responsible hub for cultural, nostalgic, modern, and uncensored cinematic experiences.

As a cornerstone of the 9th and 9th community, the Tower Theatre will continue to be a safe haven for underrepresented voices and those who love exploring new ideas through film. This historic movie theater, the oldest single-screen venue in Utah dedicated solely to film, is a cultural landmark that deserves to be preserved for future generations.

This project will unfold in phases: Visioning, Planning, Design, and Construction. It will require significant capital investment and a robust fundraising campaign. While fundraising timelines and construction expectations can be unpredictable, we are inspired by similar successful projects, such as Coolidge Corner in Brookline, MA, which took a decade, the Belcourt in Nashville, which took five years, and locally, Spy Hop, which took seven years to build their facility.

Rest assured, the SLFS team is moving forward as swiftly as possible. Your engagement is crucial. As we progress through each phase, we will keep this website updated and let you know how to stay involved.

Remember, supporting our Broadway Centre Cinemas also strengthens the SLFS mission and the Tower project. You can become a monthly subscriber to the Red Carpet Club and attend films and events at the Broadway to help keep SLFS programs vibrant.

Stay with us. We will keep you posted on our progress and are committed to working diligently on the project. We are actively collaborating with architectural, engineering, and design teams to explore the potential of this unique cinema.

You may notice some essential repairs being made to the Tower throughout this process. These are not part of the capital construction but are necessary to maintain the building until major construction begins.

SLFS has always had the Tower at the heart of our mission, and we will continue to honor its character and purpose throughout the visioning and planning process. After all, Utah’s first cinema with air-conditioning and talkies deserves to keep its projector lamp shining brightly.

Taking on the Tower project in a post-pandemic arts recovery climate is ambitious, but our goal is to make the Tower Salt Lake Film Society’s premiere venue for director/actor Q&As, cultural and environmental films, panel discussions, archival film access, and various SLFS film programs. We are home to the largest video/DVD archive collection in Utah. The Tower is made by the community, for the community, and will remain accessible to all as a movie house and a place to celebrate the love of cinema.

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