Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2017

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Saving the past

Demolition of historic movie theater is no way to respect Las Vegas’ history

In its heyday, Las Vegas’ Huntridge Theatre played such first-run family favorites as 1950’s “Cinderella” and 1967’s “Jungle Book.”

Just before it closed in 2002, the Huntridge hosted concerts by local rock groups with such names as “VooDoo Glow Skulls.”

Now the owner of the 64-year-old theater wants to tear it down.

The rub is that the Huntridge is listed on both state and national registers of historic buildings. Eli Mizrachi bought the Huntridge in 2002 under a contract that required the building to be preserved until 2017. The state has paid $1.6 million in recent years to help with renovations and maintenance.

Mizrachi, reportedly eager to build a high-rise office building on the spot, is offering to give the state its money back in exchange for being allowed to tear down the building — a Las Vegas icon that was designed by S. Charles Lee, one of the 20th century’s most notable designers of motion picture theaters.

Mizrachi’s request is to be considered by the state Cultural Affairs Commission this month.

The Huntridge is built in the Streamline Moderne style and is one of about 400 theaters that Lee designed in the Southwest during the 1930s and ’40s.

Last week Brian Alvarez, a Las Vegas urban historian and curator, told Las Vegas Sun reporter Joe Schoenmann this is a “great opportunity for the city to step up to the plate,” noting the city already has preserved a handful of historic buildings, such as the Fifth Street school and the old post office downtown.

But the city may not be up for saving the Huntridge. Las Vegas Councilman Gary Reese, whose ward includes the theater, told the Sun that although he “would like to see it stay what it is,” he is not going to ask the city to pay to save it.

Someone, however, should. Government and business leaders across the valley — many of whom grew up seeing movies at the Huntridge — should work together to ensure that cultural landmark remains intact and in the public domain. Las Vegas’ progress and bright future should not come at the total expense of its shining past.

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