A benefit screening for the Tower Theater will be held Friday, April 12, appropriately enough, at the Tower Theater, 876 E. 900 South. The film to be shown is the newly restored version of Jean Vigo's 1934 French classic "L'Atalante," which includes 10 minutes of footage never before seen.
Later in April the latest compilation of international cartoon shorts, "The Third Animation Celebration," will begin a three-week run at the Tower.The purpose of these events is to raise awareness in the community of efforts to restore the theater, a historical landmark threatened with extinction.
The Independent Film Foundation, a non-profit organization, wants to refurbish and operate the theater to provide a quality showcase for foreign, independent, classic and family film entertainment.
The Tower benefit Friday evening begins at 7:30 with a buffet donated by five local restaurants - American Grill, Ferrantelli, EIBO's, Charlie Chow and Red's Frozen Yogurt. The screening of "L'Atalante" follows at 8:30 p.m.
Admission is a $75 contribution per person; reserved sections are available only for corporate and group blocks of 10 or more. (For more information, phone 328-8899 or 364-9932.)
"There's a lot riding on this," according to Greg Tanner, who is heading up the project. "We have a goal of $70,000 for these two events, and even if we come close we'll start renovating the theater and get ready for another fund raiser - another block party (like one held late last year with an outdoor showing of `For All Mankind')."
Tanner, who currently runs Salt Lake's only movie art house, the Cinema in Your Face! theater downtown, said he is confident money can be raised to fix up the Tower sufficiently to reopen it, though it may take longer to work on the facade. "But we can have the theater running and still do that at a future date."
He said the purpose for holding these two fund-raising events inside the Tower is to show contributors exactly what needs to be done. The theater is comfortable enough for the benefit showing of "L'Atalante" and the three-week run of "The Third Animation Celebration," but extensive repairs are needed before it can be opened on a permanent basis.
"The major problems are the ceiling plaster, which has water damage so that some of the beams are exposed; the seats were recently covered on the backs, though the bottoms need to be refurnished - they are not as new as most people are used to but still comfortable; the lobby is kind of run down.
"It functions fine but it's not as pretty to look at as we'd like.
"The point is to get people into the theater to look at what we plan to do, to see what they are pledging money toward."
Tanner said there have been some good-size pledges, including $2,000 from the East Central Community Council, which is the neighborhood group where the Tower is situated, and also a substantial amount from the Symphony Guild. But there is still a long way to go. - Chris Hicks