Remnant opposition to Salt Lake City’s pending sale of the Utah Theater on downtown’s Main Street broke into public view again Tuesday when film buff Michael Valentine chained himself to the shuttered hall and vowed a hunger strike to save it.
Valentine wrote on social media that he ended his hunger strike after 15 and a half hours “in an attempt to offer an olive branch to the City Council and Mayor Mendenhall to meet with me.”
Valentine said he hoped the effort and the attention it garnered would open the door for “future constructive conversations.”
“So I am no longer chained to the theater, but I’m still out here and and I will be out here everyday of the week talking to the great people of our city and hoping the council and mayor come on down and say hi so I can give them a real tour and the actual facts,” Valentine added.
Valentine and other die-hard supporters of the dilapidated playhouse sought to draw attention to allegations of “serious abuses” in the city’s handling of its late 2019 deal to sell the historic site to developers, who are pressing plans to raze the 103-year-old hall and build a 31-story residential skyscraper and city park.
“This is not for the betterment of the city,” Valentine said of the theater’s impending demolition as he plopped down on the sidewalk Tuesday beneath the theater’s old marquee and locked his arms and legs in heavy cables threaded through its door handles, vowing to stay for days — or until city leaders heeded his concerns.
Elected leaders, he said, “should be listening to the people instead of setting policy to make corrupt deals with billionaires.”
Valentine, whose legal surname is Patton, grew up in Cache Valley and attended Sky View High School. As part of his efforts, earlier this year Valentine got in contact with local theater preservationist Michael Ballam, asking advice and touring theaters Ballam helped restore in Logan.
“I think the loss of the PANTAGES would be akin to bulldozing Delicate Arch to put in an In-N-Out Burger,” Ballam apparently wrote in a screenshot Valentine shared on social media.
This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state. To read the full story, visit The Salt Lake Tribune’s website.
Herald Journal staff contributed localized information to this report.