Monday, December 31, 2012

Utah Theatre Hopes to Finish Renovations with $1 million donation

After about a year of no progress, renovations on the Utah Theatre are starting again thanks to a $1 million donation by Gail Miller.

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre Managing Director Gary Griffin said the widow of Larry H. Miller gave the company the donation —in two parts — within the last month.

“Hopefully, that will be enough to finish it, open it up,” Griffin said of the project. “We couldn’t have done anything without that (donation). That was what got us started again.”

Construction of the entire Center Street project — which includes an annex — should be finished by the end of 2013.

Right now, crews are installing the sprinklers and the heating and air conditioning system, Griffin said. Crews will install a fly system so the theater can be used for both classic movies and live performances. The interior still needs to be refinished, and seats will be reinstalled before the historic building will once again open to the public.

Crews framed the annex to the east of the theater, where the restrooms and elevator will be located, Griffin said. The addition will include new, modern restrooms and a modern concession area. There will be a rehearsal space on the second floor of the new addition. Eventually, they would like to add a rooftop garden on the addition.

Construction on the Utah Theatre — located at 18 W. Center St. in Logan —began in January 2008, but when excavating for the organ chamber, construction crews hit the water table at a depth of 12 feet, Griffin said.

Waterproofing the chamber and weighing it down — to keep it from floating in the aquifer —cost the opera company an extra $500,000, Griffin said. With a shortage of funds, the project was put on hold, and the theater was used for storage space until January 2011, when construction resumed.

After that, crews put the organ in and did more work on the annex after the organization received more cash. Other than that, not much has been done on the theater in 2012, said Griffin.

Officials at Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre envision doing live productions year-round once the renovations of the original building — and the addition — are complete. So performances won’t just be at the Ellen Eccles Theatre during the summer.

“We’ll be doing live performances there at the same time we’re doing them at the Eccles, so instead of doing four productions, we’ll be doing eight,” Griffin said.

The last movie shown at the theater was "Casablanca," Griffin said. He isn’t sure which classic movie will be shown at the theater's reopening, but he said, "We'll probably open with a silent movie, with that organ accompanying." Herald Journal