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Iconic Ritz Theater in Tooele closes after 83 years

Posted at 9:23 PM, Jul 05, 2023

TOOELE, Utah — After captivating audiences for 83 years, the Ritz Theater in Tooele has bid farewell to its patrons.

The decision to shut its doors has stirred emotions within the community, prompting hundreds to gather in its final week.

Reflecting on the cherished memories, FOX 13 News reporter Spencer Joseph and photojournalist Thor Feidler sat down with Mike Booth, a long-time employee, to discuss the theater's rich history and the impact it had on people's lives.

"A lot of stories were created here," Booth said. "Many people met their husbands, wives, and partners here.”

For the price of three dollars, moviegoers were transported to different worlds at the Ritz Theater. "So much history," Booth remarked.

Looking back, one can almost see a time machine in those walls.

Almost as if Doc Brown and Marty McFly themselves would muse “You built a time machine! Out of a movie theater?”

Booth, intimately familiar with the theater's inner workings, explained, "The set-up is still from the '30s; the screen was recessed back in and everything."

He continued, "You had the flicker of the film and the projector above you.”

Booth's profound connection to the theater was evident as he shared.

"This used to be my other job," he said.

The Ritz Theater, built in 1939 by the Paramount group, has been a witness to countless movies and historical events.

"It saw WWII, it saw Korea," Booth noted. From Technicolor classics to modern digital releases, the theater experienced the evolution of filmmaking.

Booth recollected an incident when the subwoofers blew out during a battle scene in a Star Trek movie, humorously mentioning how upset the audience was.

Amidst the many memories, Booth revealed his favorite movie and the seat associated with it.

"My earliest memory of a movie is watching Top Gun when I was about three years old," he shared fondly.

However, all good things must come to an end. The Ritz Theater concluded its final night on Friday, June 30, marking the end of an era.

With the closing of the Ritz Theater, the silence now reverberates where once there was a chorus of sounds.

Booth expressed his nostalgia, emphasizing the unique quality of film compared to digital formats. However, it was the people who made the theater truly special.

Booth recalled regular customers who were greeted with their preferred drink and popcorn, ready to go as they walked through the door.

Booth acknowledged the challenges faced by the theater, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, stating, "After COVID, it was a big win."

As the theater's credits roll and the lights come on, Booth mused about what the screen is telling him.

"Well, it's telling me to play one more movie," he laughed. "I would say thanks because it has seen so much.”

While this chapter has come to a close, the Ritz Theater hopes that the space will be purchased and possibly restored in the near future.

However, the fate of the theater and the cherished movies held within its walls remains uncertain.

Passersby will undoubtedly pause and wonder about the memories etched in these hallowed halls, forever holding a special place in the hearts of those who experienced the magic of the Ritz Theater.