The huge old hulk across Main Street from the City Building will soon become a part of Manti's long-gone past.
After an unsuccessful two-year effort to save it as a monument to its turn-of-the-century builders, the Manti Theatre is coming down.Manti city has purchased the building for $50,000 with the intention of erecting a $1 million office building on the site.
"We know we'll have to take a lot of flak," City Manager Bill Mickelson said. "So be it."
"We have an urgent need in Manti for more office space for both government agencies and businesses," he said.
"Private builders didn't seem able or willing to fill the need so it was up to the city to take over or lose some very desirable tenants. As the county seat, our officials felt that wouldn't be appropriate or wise."
The Manti Theatre was built in 1909, and in its heyday presented tragedies like "Macbeth" and "Hamlet," a light opera like "The H.M.S. Pinafore," and became the stopping-off place for traveling companies starring Salt Lake performers like Richard Condie.
But stage performances were eventually replaced by movies, and movies were replaced by television as a favorite form of entertainment.
Attendance dwindled, and the popcorn crowd found other fun things to do. Ticket sales no longer covered expenses, and the Manti Theatre ceased to be a theater.
The building came to serve other roles: dance floor, restaurant, stove factory. In time they too disappeared. Paint faded, windows fell out, walls crumbled.
The building was becoming, some residents complained, a safety hazard.
Two years ago a group of history buffs asked for a chance to save the Manti Theatre, but time has now run out.
Mickelson said the city hopes to sell salvage rights to the old building in a few weeks and have construction under way this summer.
The new office building will be a one-story building containing 10,000 square feet. The interior will be completed to meet the needs of the new tenants.
A second story will be added later if more space is needed because of continued growth.
Mickelson said the $1 million will be borrowed from a commercial bank at a hoped-for interest rate of around 7 percent.
"We already have commitments for about 8,000 square feet of office space," Mickelson said, adding that several other possible tenants have made inquiries.
"Our expectation is that the building will be more than self-sustaining, that it will be a revenue producer," Mickelson said. "Every indication is that we're in a prolonged growth cycle."
In Manti, the descent of the historic theater into a heap of rubble will be watched by the older folks with mixed feelings.
"I was in musicals there when I was a freshman in high school," Mabel Anderson said, "but I guess it has to go."