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Tower hoping to reopen this month -- minus live concerts
Alternative cinema plans to stick to its roots

The manager of the Tower Theatre, 856 E. 900 South, hopes his patrons will want to buy nearly $13,000 in movie passes during the next six weeks.

Greg Tanner's alternative cinema and video store in the Ninth and Ninth neighborhood closed Friday due to a revoked business license.After neighbors complained about noise and unruly behavior during the May 20 Vanilla Ice concert, police discovered Tanner did not have a license to hold concerts at the Tower. Tanner immediately applied for a new permit to run the business solely as a movie theater and video store. He expects to have city approval of his application this week.

"It's conceivable that we could reopen this weekend," Tanner said. He said he is reasonably sure he'll be showing and renting movies again by the weekend of June 25 at the latest.

Once the Tower's screen lights up, Tanner will have to do everything he can to fill the 500 seats. He owes his landlord, Harold Hill, several months' rent -- $12,820 -- that must be paid by July 31. If he can't pay the sum, the Tower will be evicted.

How is Tanner going to bring in that kind of money?

"Two ways. First, we have a great schedule of films coming up," Tanner said. The Tower specializes in non-Hollywood films such as "SLC Punk" and cult favorites such as "The Bicycle Thief." This is not the place for the summer blockbusters. It is a place to see foreign films and sleepers that large theater chains don't pick up.

"We're also going to have a sales drive," Tanner said. The Tower will offer 10-film passes for $40, 10-video-rental cards for $20 and a year of unlimited movie-going for $100. These discount passes won't be sold after July 31, Tanner said.

"I think we have a loyal foundation" of art-film buffs, he said. "We have been controversial with our film choices. But people have stuck by us, saying that if it weren't for the Tower, these movies wouldn't have come here" to Salt Lake City.

Hill does not want the Tower out of his building, Tanner said. The landlord does want to keep the theater open and be paid $4,000 per month in rent.

The two-pronged crisis -- losing his business license and facing eviction -- have opened Tanner's eyes to a couple of things.

"It was a mistake renting out the theater for rock concerts," he said. "We ticked off our neighbors. So, it wasn't worth the money." The Tower will no longer be a live music venue, Tanner said.

"This has galvanized us to try harder to be part of the community," he said. "We have rethought our mission here, which is to show non-Hollywood movies."

Tanner also plans to change the way he runs the Tower, which has a 10-person staff.

"I haven't been delegating enough," he said. "We have some very talented people working here who came forward during the crisis." Tanner said he will have his employees handle more of the nuts-and-bolts work of operating the theater and video store.

"So, I'll be able to see things like this coming," he said.