Like "Mom and Pop" stores, independent movie houses are gradually vanishing from the American landscape. The latest casualty in Utah is south Davis County's only discount theater - the Sandcastle.
The theater lit up its twin silver screens for the last time Monday during a low-key closing night.Reuel Kohler, 77, and Dolores Kohler, 69, a husband-wife team from Bountiful and the original owners of the 21 1/2-year-old Sandcastle, have sold all their theater property at 1645 S. 500 West to Mountain America Credit Union.
Yes, the increase in mega-screen chain theaters and the rising popularity of video rentals had some effect on their decision to call it quits. However, they said there was a bigger reason.
"We can't get the kind of movies we want to play anymore," Reuel Kohler said, explaining their philosophy has always been to screen the movies and offer only the cleanest in family entertainment to movie-goers.
In the past two years, he said there's even been some G-rated movies that didn't meet their family standards.
"The movies have really slidden downhill to a new low . . . Just about everything has something in it that's objectionable," he said. "It's just thrown in there. It doesn't add anything to the movie."
The Kohlers have had offers on their property in the past but never felt the potential buyer would really help the community or that the timing was right. They never advertised to sell, either. A good buyer unexpectedly found them, and the timing seemed right this time.
"We've been in the business for a long time," Reuel Kohler said. "It has been fun. It's always fun to run a movie house."
The Sandcastle opened in September of 1976, remodeling an office building to create the two indoor theaters with 280 and 171 seats. The building had previously housed the Kohler travel trailer business until the energy crisis persuaded them to try something else.
The Sandcastle was a first-run theater originally. "The Man Who Would Be King" was the first movie that played there.
However, in 1980 it switched to become one of the area's first discount theaters after it was decided the Sandcastle couldn't compete head-to-head with the theater chains.
"We found a niche," Reuel Kohler said. "We had a real loyal following from all over the area."
When the Sandcastle opened, there were probably only five total movie screens in Davis County. Today there are 42. The only two discount movie houses left now in Davis County are the Kaysville Theater (three screens) and the Lakeside (two screens) in Clearfield.
The last two movies the Sandcastle played earlier this week were "Anastasia" and "Flubber."
Delores Kohler said she found some of the closing lines in "Anastasia," where a new beginning rather than an ending was stressed, very applicable to the theater's closing.
The theater employed as many as 13 part-time workers. Its original first-run price 21 years ago was $2.25 for adults. The theater's original discount movie price was $1.50 for adults. That only increased to $2.50 in 18 years.
Another landmark south Davis theater, the Queen in Bountiful, closed its doors for good on Dec. 23, 1994. Davis County also lost the Davis Drive-In back in 1993.