Now that the Trolley Square multiplex is permanently shuttered, I'll miss it.

There were mainstream theaters in the square when I moved to Salt Lake City 30 years ago, but over the past several years the fourplex has been strictly an art house, competing with the downtown Broadway Centre and its older sibling, the Tower.

But now the Trolley theaters are gone, one less venue for smaller, off-the-beaten-path movies to get to Salt Lake City.

Don't get me wrong; it's great to have the Broadway and the Tower. I've been a supporter of those theaters for, well, forever.

But a little competition is always good for the consumer, giving us more choices when it comes to smaller American movies or foreign-language pictures.

On the other hand, occasional "art-house" movies have shown up lately at some of the mainstream multiplexes around the valley. "The Orphanage" and "In Bruges" are recent examples.

This idea of taking such "art" movies to the masses is a fairly recent notion, and occasionally some of them do well in multiple locations. "Juno," for example. And to a lesser degree, "Lars and the Real Girl."

The Cinemark multiplexes, which operate Jordan Landing and the two Centurys, among others, even go so far as to list these films at the end of their daily newspaper directory under the heading: "Cine Arts."

Back in the shaky days of local art-film venues — when the Blue Mouse, which reigned for years, finally gave way to the Cinema in Your Face! and eventually the renovated Tower — there were times when it appeared that those theaters might fail and we'd have no showcase for independent and foreign films.

And it's been interesting to see the evolution of art houses in Salt Lake City over the past three decades.

I lived in Ogden for seven years before coming to Salt Lake City, but before that I spent my formative years in Southern California. The L.A. County suburb I lived in didn't have an art house nearby, but a drive into Los Angeles proper, or nearby Westwood, was the gateway to movie theaters galore.

There were a lot more choices downtown than my little world of local suburban theaters had to offer — and many of them catered to the art-house crowd, to include showcasing Hollywood classics of the '30s and '40s.

I grew up reading the Los Angeles Times, and I'd always check out what was playing in those theaters, and then I'd nag my parents to take me to some obscure movie they'd never heard of.

I quickly learned that although I liked everything, they didn't. The British comedies starring Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness and Terry-Thomas (well before they became stars in America) were fine; foreign-language films were off-limits.

When I got older and could drive, I went to many foreign-language movies, discovering Akira Kurosawa, Francois Truffaut and many others — something I really missed when I moved to Ogden.

But upon arriving in Salt Lake City, I quickly discovered the Blue Mouse and kept up with its later descendants. I also fell in love with the Avalon, Salt Lake City's longtime repertory theater, showing vintage Hollywood movies on the big screen (until it was eventually displaced by home video).

So, thank goodness for the Broadway and the Tower in the 21st century, giving us unique choices when Hollywood so often gives us the same old dreck.


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