The Avalon Theatre, circa 2004. Photo courtesy Grant Smith.
Many people under the age of 21 won’t remember Salt Lake’s Avalon Theatre as anything other than a pop and rock music concert venue.
But for movie lovers, the theater, 3605 S. State, was a beloved institution — it was one of the few remaining single-screen movie houses in the Salt Lake Valley. That is, until its longtime owner, Art Proctor, retired from film exhibition after more than 40 years.
In 2006, Proctor sold the building to concert promoters from the Kollective group. But rather than quit the movie business completely, he continued renting movies in the store next door for at least another year.
Proctor was at least as beloved was the theater itself. He died this week, at age 77.
One of first stories I covered for the Deseret News Features section was a 1997 profile on local hypnotism acts, something in which Art was well-versed. At varying times, he Avalon hosted the popular Vandermeide shows, as well as the younger, flashier Spencer.
When I talked to Art about the shows, he was very candid about his feelings, then realized he had perhaps said too much. He asked me if a few his hilarious but possibly controversial quotes could be “off the record.”
Since I really wasn’t running a critical piece, I happily agreed to “spike” the quotes in question. That incident established a longtime relationship, and in the years that followed, Art became a trusted source whenever I needed to talk to someone with experience in movie exhibition.
More than that, Art was a friend, and I would sometimes stop by the video store simply to say hello. I would wind up talking movies with him for at least an hour. And those were some of the shorter conversations.
One of Art’s theater’s slogans was “Good movies, like good books, never grow old.” To my mind, that should be changed to “Good movie theater owners, like good movies and good books, never grow old.”
And Art Proctor, like the original Avalon Theatre, will definitely be missed.