Obit: Art Proctor, owned Avalon Theatre for 43 years

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Art Proctor, a showman who for 43 years owned the Avalon Theatre in South Salt Lake, died Tuesday. He was 77.

"He was just the consummate theater owner," Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism and former executive director of the Utah Film Commission, said Thursday.

Arthur Charles Proctor was born Oct. 24, 1931, in Salt Lake City, the 11th of 12 children of Emily and John Proctor. He graduated from South High School. He married Nancy Gay Margetts in 1951, and they had three children, Jeff, Tracey and Natalie.

In 1963, Proctor bought the Apollo theater, built in 1947, in South Salt Lake and renamed it the Avalon. According to the Web site, he chose the name Avalon because he only had to change three letters in the marquee.

The Avalon's business began with first-run films, but as multiplexes proliferated, the single-screen theater became a home for second-run and art-house films. Proctor, who was active in the LDS Church, maintained family standards and refused to play R-rated films.

Proctor also owned, at various times, downtown Salt Lake City's tiny art-house theater, the Blue Mouse (which opened in 1973 and closed in 1986), and the Vista in Murray -- which is now the Desert Star Theatre.

Proctor jumped into the home-video market, amassing more than 5,000 classic titles in a video store adjacent to the Avalon. He also was the resident expert on the history of Utah movie theaters.

In 1992, with movie audiences dwindling, Proctor was approached by Vandermeide, "Europe's Fastest Hypnotist," to mount a weekend show. Proctor agreed, and Vandermeide played the Avalon until January 1996, when he moved down State Street to the Murray Theater. Proctor wasted little time finding a new act to fill in: Spencer, billed as "the world's fastest hypnotist."

Proctor sold the Avalon in 2006. It's now a venue for rock concerts.

Proctor is survived by his wife, Nancy, and their three children, as well as his brother Allen and sister Dorothy Lacey, 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are set for Sept. 19 at the Holladay Stake Center, 4568 S. Holladay Blvd., Holladay. Viewings are set for Sept. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Wasatch Lawn Mortuary, 3401 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, and Sept. 19 from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. at the Holladay Stake Center. Interment will be at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park.