The Tower Theatre, the beloved 95-year-old movie house that anchors Salt Lake City’s 9th and 9th neighborhood, will remain closed for 2023, according to an update from the nonprofit Salt Lake Film Society.
A new initiative, “Tower Theatre: The Next 100 Years,” is in the works, the nonprofit announced Thursday.
SLFS plans to renovate and repair the theater “as an environmentally responsible hub for cultural, nostalgic, modern, and uncensored cinematic experiences,” the arts nonprofit said — and those experiences will include “unique technological film screenings,” offering its archive of DVDs, and “museum-like exhibits.”
The film society, using a grant from the Alternative Visions Fund, purchased the Tower Theatre building from its longtime landlord last December.
“This purchase allows for the Tower to have a fresh start,” the SLFS website said. “Therefore, we are happily turning away from previously reported cosmetic improvement plans to begin serious long-term visioning for the Tower.”
The historic theatre was first opened in 1928, and has run as an art-house theater since the 1980s — with the Salt Lake Film Society forming to operate it in 2001. (SLFS took on the six-screen Broadway Centre Cinemas in 2002.) The Tower and the Broadway both closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 — and while the Broadway reopened in October 2021, the Tower’s return was delayed because of supply-chain issues.
According to the film society’s update, the plans for the Tower will require time, support and fundraising efforts — so the theater will not reopen in 2023. The nonprofit said it has plans to form an advisory committee of “stakeholders and local business leaders,” to make a plan for the theater’s future.
The renovations, whatever form they take, will be a “community project,” SLFS said — and the nonprofit will provide updates through its website and social media platforms.
Current repairs that are underway include retrofitting the Tower’s marquee, installing new rain gutters, repairing the roof, fixing interior sealing issues, and a complete demolition of the lobby — which will allow access to plumbing and electrical systems to build a new lobby, and install ADA-accessible bathrooms. (The Tower’s old bathrooms were notoriously small, and in the basement, accessible down narrow flights of stairs.)
“Our goal is for the Tower to be Salt Lake Film Society’s premiere film venue for director/actor Q&A’s, cultural and environmental films, panel discussions, archival film access, and various SLFS film programs that support the appreciation for the motion picture arts,” the update said.