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HISTORIC MANTI THEATER MAY SOON BE BACK `IN PLAY'

The Manti Theater's marquee lights may once more brighten the night sky over Main Street, and the sound of dancing feet and band music may again fill the air.

The Manti Theater Restoration Trust Inc., a nonprofit corporation, has purchased the Manti Theater property for an undisclosed sum and plans to restore the Manti Armada, a once-popular dance hall, and remodel the theater, a large two-story building.The remodeled facility would provide the setting for a wide variety of events: public and private dances, ballet and folk dancing, local and visiting drama groups, movies, seminars, lectures, conferences, receptions and rallies.

The complex will be performance-oriented, said Mark A. Beach, the restoration trust's executive officer, who is a partner in Beach Associates, an accounting firm with an extensive clientele in central Utah.

"This is an economic development project," Beach said. But he added that it will also have strong historic-reservation elements.

Estimated cost of the project is $2 million. The money would come from grants, awards, foundations, contributions and loans through a variety of fund-raising activities.

Beach thinks the fund-raising program stands on solid ground. He is an Oregon State University graduate in business and finance who is also a certified public accountant. He has worked for Pepsico, Ernst and Whinney and for more than five years for Disney. His work assignments took him to California, Florida and Paris, France.

"When you work for Disney for a number of years, you start to think like them," Beach said. That means, he explained, you think in terms of theme.

The theater's, he said, could be "Historic 1909."

That's the year the Manti Theater hosted its first performance by a traveling troupe: "Nero the Gladiator."

Through its early years the theater was the site of dramatic performances by both local and traveling groups, lyceums and minstrel lectures. It was the town's cultural center.

Then it was taken over by the movies. With the movies came Charlie Chaplin, Hott Gibson, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

That era, too, passed. The kids who had paid a dime to attend the Saturday afternoon movies went to war. The older generation stayed home to listen to Amos and Andy on the radio and still later to watch television.

And the Manti Theater, once the pride of the community, was converted into a restaurant that folded and then into a showroom for a local manufacturing firm's wares.

In its projected future, the Manti Theater will represent something old and something new in a kind of bonding, Beach said.

"In addition to its restoration and economic roles, we want the Manti Theater complex to renew our spirit of community," Beach said.