The facade and lobby of the Rivoli Theater in Springville have a nondescript, nearly forgotten look to them. The marquee is empty, the signs out front lack movie posters and the concession area hasn’t served popcorn in quite awhile.
But when you step down into the theater, you see the charm and story of the theater that has shown movies and performances since 1937 before going empty several years ago.
That’s what caught Mapleton resident Melissa Cannon’s attention when she first walked in.
“I loved the stories of the people in the city of their experience here,” she said. “I’ve heard people who have had their first Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup here. People who had their first kiss here or their first job.”
Cannon, a film producer, said she decided to sign a lease on the theater and take it on, despite the long list of repairs, because of what the building has meant to generations of residents and what it could continue to bring to the city.
“I love the energy of this building,” Cannon said. “It has a good energy. It needs some humans back in it.”
“It needs some protection, somebody to come in and preserve it and to make sure it doesn’t just melt away and become a cavity for another building to come into,” added Daryl Tucker, a member of the Springville Historical Society and Springville Arts Commission who is assisting with the project.
While the roof has been repaired, there are still some issues, like the restrooms, lobby, front office and basement that need to be addressed before residents will be taking their seats for movies.
“Obviously (the plan is to) restore it and do some upgrades, but keep it with the most historic charm that I possibly can,” Cannon said.
They hope to have something to be able to show residents by the time Art City Days rolls around again next year.
Once the renovations are complete, Cannon said she hopes to begin showing films and have the space available for stage performances and community events. She is also in talks to bring film festivals to the theater and hopes to screen films from students and those with ties to Utah, too.
“Most people don’t even know all the stuff that comes through Utah,” she said. “There’s a lot that people don’t know about that’s happening right under their nose. I want to showcase some of that as well, so they can meet local directors and local producers.”
With these plans for the theater, which could potentially include an appearance on a renovation reality show, Cannon said she wants to see the theater return and rejoin the community.
“It would be fun to bring it back to the Art City and to have the community fall in love with the theater again,” Cannon said.
For her, theaters have always held a sort of magic. Cannon attributes it to hearing stories of her great-grandma playing piano for silent films in Salt Lake, the “Let’s Go to the Movies” number in her favorite movie “Annie” and her experiences.
“I think there is something magical about going to the theater. All of it. The smells, the applause,” she said.
Springville’s rich art history has always included theaters and noteworthy opera houses, but some of that heritage has been lost with time, Tucker said.
“Springville has had a very rich history in theaters and theater arts in people performing and movies being shown and all those kinds of things,” he said. “It’s part of that art culture of Springville that makes Springville a unique and special place. So we need this back. We haven’t had it for many years.”
The Rivoli, in its current design, was opened in 1937. Prior to that a smaller theater had opened in that building in 1927, and 10 years later, Emil Ostlund renovated the venue to make it larger. It originally showed silent movies before getting sound in 1929, Tucker said.
A local realtor purchased the building in the 1990s and it became the Villa Playhouse and a number of theatrical performances happened there, Tucker said. It was sold in the early 2000s and the city acquired the building in 2008.
Tucker said he had the opportunity to see movies like “Blue Hawaii” at the Rivoli Theaters. He and his family also had the opportunity to perform in some of the shows in the Rivoli, which furthered his connection to the venue.
“We spent a lot of time down here. We have some great memories and some great family time spent here. I think that’s a rare opportunity,” he said. “Most people aren’t going to be able to do that. But coming down with your family to see a show and having them together that’s as good as getting together around the dinner table when everyone’s looking at their phones.”
Since the city acquired the building it has been largely empty. There have been groups and committees who have tried to raise money for renovations, but nothing came to fruition.
Now, with Cannon taking charge and a strong vision guiding her, Tucker said he is optimistic and excited to see it come together and be part of it.
“We have a great deal of support from the city on this,” Tucker said. “They are very anxious to see this be successful and we are grateful to them for their cooperation and help in all of this.”