This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Nobody would confuse the ShowStar Cinemas 6 with the movie palaces of Hollywood's golden age.
The ShowStar is a flat building in a strip mall just off Redwood Road. The glass front, with large lighted boxes holding posters, runs parallel to a long concessions counter. At the end of that counter, one takes a right turn into a dark-red hallway, lit with six red LED readerboards, each marking the door to one of the building's auditoriums.
The ShowStar wasn't even the multiplex's original name. When it opened in 1980, according to the obsessively catalogued UtahTheaters.info website, it was the Mann 6. Later it became the Plaza 5400. In 2001, it became the Showcase, and later the ShowStar.
Through its life, the multiplex showed first-run films, then was a second-run "dollar" house, and went back to first-run films.
That run ended last week, after the Labor Day weekend, when the ShowStar's owners closed the theater for good. On Thursday, everything in the building the projectors, theater seats, popcorn machine, poster cases, even the toilets in the restrooms was scheduled to be sold at auction.
I walked around the closed ShowStar the other day, during the pre-auction preview, to see if there was anything special I wanted to come back to bid on (there wasn't) and to see what a movie house looks like when the lights go out for the last time.
The auditoriums were pleasant enough, with gently ramped aisles and a gradual slope. They were designed before the advent of stadium seating, which turned the aisles into vertiginous staircases over which everyone always trips and spills popcorn.
The seats had plastic molded backs with a not-thick-enough layer of fabric-covered foam. Those seat backs always look, to me, like a pan of brownies tipped on end.
Upstairs, I walked the serpentine path past the six projectors three pointed left, three pointed right, into their respective auditoriums. The theater's owners had made the leap to digital, a necessity considering the studios seldom send out prints of actual film stock anymore, but they had kept the old platters that held the bulky film prints.
Down at the far end of the projection room, I saw a box of Christmas decorations and a box of Santa hats. One presumes these were a required part of the concessionaires' uniforms every December, and I could only imagine how itchy and uncomfortable they would get after a few hours of scooping popcorn and filling soda cups.
In the half-lit hallway from the lobby to the auditoriums, I had one stray thought: It was too bad the place was being taken apart so quickly, because some enterprising young Brian De Palma could come up with a really cool horror movie set in an abandoned movie house.
Looking out the lobby windows past the cases for posters advertising "Storks" and "Blair Witch" and "Rogue One," movies that will never screen there one can't see the main reason the ShowStar Cinemas 6 is doomed. About a block away, across 5400 South, a new multiplex is being built the first location in Utah for Regal Entertainment Group, which was (until AMC Theatres acquired Carmine Cinemas earlier this year) the biggest theater chain in the country.
The new Regal Cinemas will be big and shiny, a place where kids going to their first movies will make lifelong memories.
Just remember, though, that there were some suburban Utah kids who had their first movie experience in that flat box in the strip mall. For those kids, the ShowStar or Mann 6 or Plaza 5400 or Showcase will always be their movie house.