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Electrical fire leaves resurrected American Fork theater and other building tenants in limbo amid wait for repairs

By Curtis Booker - | Jul 10, 2024
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A photo taken on July 2, 2024 shows the outside sign and marquee of the Maven Cinemas in American Fork. An apparent electrical fire has left the building without power since the beginning of June, 2024.
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A photo taken July 2, 2024 shows a note on the doors of Maven Cinemas explaining why the theater is unable to show movies after an apparent electrical fire.
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An undated photo shows the outside sign and marquee of the Maven Cinemas in American Fork. An apparent electrical fire has left the building without power since the beginning of June, 2024.

 

Nine months after opening its doors to movie buffs who love and appreciate nostalgic films, Maven Cinemas in American Fork has had to make an unfortunate decision to close, after a month and a half of their building being closed.

On June 2, the theater’s owners said an electrical fire produced smoke and flames inside of a wall on the east side of the structure.

The building, located at 120 W. Main St., houses six tenants, including Christ Fellowship Church. The congregation’s pastor, who was inside preparing for their usual Sunday service, discovered smoke seeping through the walls and immediately contacted the fire department, according to Maven Cinemas co-owner Dvorah Governale.

Firefighters responded and extinguished the flames, saving the 80-year-old property from becoming a charred memory. Due to the nature of the incident, however, crews had to remove the building’s power meter, which Governale says still hasn’t been replaced.

This has left the theater, fellow businesses in the building and a live-in tenant without electricity for the past month.

Governale claims communication from the property’s owner, Armani Avenesyan, who also runs the TATEV Events venue in Orem, has been inconsistent and mostly tight-lipped about the status of getting tenants back into the building.

“They’re not really great about always responding right away, sometimes not at all,” Dvorah Governale told the Daily Herald.

She said a city official told them the landlord would need to deploy a contractor for repair work and apply for a building permit to have its power meter replaced.

Dvorah said one of the few responses the Governales received from their landlord stated that repairs would begin once insurance payments were received – though, according to Maven Cinemas, no timeline on when that would be was given.

Meanwhile, the nonoperational facility has resulted in several weeks of financial loss for the revamped theater in what the Governales anticipated to be a busy summer season.

“It’s pretty devastating. I mean, that’s essentially the full window of what we needed for the summer to be able to bring in the kind of revenue to be able to get through the early fall that’s usually slower and hopefully have a good solid end of the year,” Dvorah Governale said.

She said they’ve had to refund tickets and rental presales for June and July along with canceling planned summer events.

“Even when power is restored, it will take up to two weeks to resume screening films due to the process required to secure film rights,” Governale said.

Joseph and Dvorah Governale opened Maven Cinemas last October and have been showing all genres of classic and retro movies as a revamped version of the original theater Towne Cinemas, which opened in 1950.

Maven has been attracting people of all ages reliving fond memories and building new ones.

Shaylei Halling is one of the other five building tenants. Her business, Studio on Main, is also feeling the impacts of the month-long power outage. Typically, Halling rents out her space for photographers or videographers to come in and shoot their projects, in addition to her own photography, all of which have faced disruptions.

“I paid my rent for June, but I had to refund so many clients. I’ve had to go find another studio to shoot at,” Halling said. “Here we are into July, and I haven’t heard anything. I don’t know if we’re looking at another week, two weeks, another month.”

Similar to the Governales, Halling expressed her frustration with Avenesyan’s alleged lack of transparency.

“I’m trying to keep clients in the loop, and it’s hard to do that when I can’t even figure out what’s going on,” she said.

The situation has also displaced Andy Walton, a resident who lives on the second floor of the building. Without power in his apartment, Walton has had to stay with family until the building is safe to reenter.

“I don’t believe any of this has been handled with care. It’s usually been about a week between updates, and I have to ask for all of those,” Walton told the Daily Herald in a written statement. “Every update is ‘power should be back in a week.’ It’s been five weeks now with no end in sight.”

Walton said on July 5, he told the property’s landlord that if the repairs are not fixed within two weeks, he would be forced to find another place to live.

“It is a really cool place, and I’ll be sad to leave, but I can’t stay in this limbo much longer. A person needs a home base,” Walton said.

Still in the dark on when power will be restored, the Governales say the financial loss from the unexpected closure may also lead them to terminate their time in the building.

On June 30, the couple reportedly submitted a letter to their landlord stating the need to vacate. Dvorah Governale said their hope was to possibly wait for the completed repairs, but with no clear timeline on when that would be, it comes down to making a heartbreaking business decision.

On Friday, July 12, Maven Cinemas made the official announcement on their social media that they will indeed close the vintage movie theater.

“It’s the community that we just feel so sad for because we had our yard sale last Saturday. And we had so many people show up. It was so beautiful and so many of them just rooting for us and hoping we could make it,” Dvorah Governale said.

She also pointed to prior communication issues with the landlord regarding their lease agreement among other issues in the building.

Dvorah Governale said it’s been a longtime dream of her husband Joe to operate a brick-and-mortar style cinema house, and it’s been gut-wrenching to slowly watch it all fall apart. A definitive decision regarding the cinemas request to move out of the building has yet to be settled, according to Governale.

However, she made it clear that this setback doesn’t mark the end of the road for the theater.

“We’ve talked about essentially making it kind of a mobile kind of business for a little while until we could get it rolling and back into a permanent location,” Dvorah Governale said.

The Daily Herald reached out to the building’s owner for comment, but did not receive a response.

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