For Blake Andersen, the chain's president, the opening ceremony was a moment of deja vu because he was there in 1988 when Cineplex Odeon opened its six-screen Holladay Center Cinema in the same location at 1945 E. Murray-Holladay Road.
"At that time, it was a very beautiful building and a state-of-the-art theater for Salt Lake City," Andersen said, adding that it was "pretty exciting … to make something old new again."
Cineplex Odeon (later Loews Cineplex) operated the Holladay theater from 1988 to 2001. The Utah-based Westates Theatres took over in 2001 and ran it through September 2013. In October 2013, Water Gardens Theatres turned the space into a second-run house and closed it in November.
"We did everything we could to restore what was great and bring in a few finishing touches," Andersen said.
The theater is the first building to bear the company's Megaplex Luxury brand. Other Megaplex theaters, like the flagship at Sandy's Jordan Commons, have luxury seating in some auditoriums, but Holladay is the first to make every seat in every theater a heated luxury recliner.
The six theaters seat 486 patrons far fewer than the 1,100 or so seats in the old movie houses.
Megaplex has also added a downstairs lounge and a cafe menu that includes crepes, salads, waffles and other items along with the traditional popcorn and candy. One of the six theaters has been turned into a VIP auditorium, with concierge service and laser projection.
Gail Miller recounted the time she and her late husband, Larry H. Miller, "started going to the movies in downtown Salt Lake City where you'd walk in and your feet would stick to the floor, and the seats would squeak as you sat down, or you couldn't see the movie because someone in front of you was a little taller than you were. I think we've improved a lot over the years, in what we offer moviegoers."
Miller, whose family also owns the Utah Jazz, added that "entertainment is an important part of life. We have so many things we are dealing with in the country, in the world, in our community, that we need diversion from the problems that we face every day. Someone might say, 'All the Millers think about is having fun.' Well, that's a good part of life, and we'll take it where we can get it."
Salt Lake County moviegoers will have another new theater to visit this month. Regal Entertainment Group will open its long-awaited facility in Taylorsville, the Regal Crossroads 14, on March 16 with a three-day trial run, Sunday through Tuesday, featuring 2016 hit movies for $3 admission and $3 popcorn and soft drinks.