Restoration of {The Villa Theatre}

July 05, 2013  •  2 Comments

Almost once a week on my way to or from work I pass by Adib's Rug Gallery just off 33rd South and Highland Dr. in Salt Lake City Utah.  Adib's Rug Gallery is housed in what USA Today called, one of our nation's top ten movie theater's to watch a classic movie in.  The Villa Theatre housed one of the largest movie screens in the west and stood as Utah's cinema crown jewel for over 30 years.  Now it houses rugs. 

The Theater was a casualty of the mammoth sized megaplexes and multiplexes that began populating the Salt Lake Valley in the late 90s and in 2003 stood on the brink of destruction.  Dr. Hamid Adib purchased the building in 2004, and to a degree, preserved it along with the sign.  Now the sign is the only reminder of the Theater's rich history and glory.  Someday maybe, when all the rugs are sold, the theater will be used for its proper purpose.  Until then I have decided to restore it to it's former glory myself, the only way I know how.  For those of you who want a little BTS of how I achieved the final image, read on.  If you just want to see the before and after shot, scroll to the end.

Here is the before picture and what the Villa looks like as of July 3, 3013.

I took this shot standing in the middle of the street, sun setting, awesome light.  I took three exposures for HDR processing.  I shot this picture low to the ground to give it a larger feel.  I used a D800 with the Tamron 24-70 IS lens and shot in RAW to get as much detail as possible.

Closeup of the sign.

Here is the base HDR image after I processed it using Lightroom and Nik Software HDR Effects Pro 2.

I wanted detail, but I also wanted a realistic look so I tried not to go overboard with the HDR processing.  You can see some ghosting around the building and sign that I had to get rid of for the final image.

This is my model for the final image and a bit of a test run on the sign restoration.  Hi Ben!

I used some old photographs for a reference.

The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers, was the Villa's last show.

I have many memories of the Villa, I saw a ton of movies there.  My fondest memory, however, was seeing the Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Rings, opening day.  As a kid I was a huge Tolkien fan.  My bedroom walls were covered in basketball posters and Lord of the Rings posters.  So to see my favorite book as a kid, come to life on the big screen for the first time in this theater is a great memory!  That is why I chose this marquee to be in the final image.

It is funny how memories are often better than reality, because this building was actually pretty ugly!  The Dr. did good restoring the outside of the building for sure!

I also replaced the rugs in the movie poster windows with actual movie posters.  Here are a couple of the posters.



And now for a BTS shot of my #1 model.

Quick run down of my set up for the boy in the final image.  #1 rule of compositing is to make sure your images match in color,  that is the biggest give away of a fake.  I prefer to light my subjects to match the color of the background if possible so that it makes everything easier in post.  To that end I used a lot of gelled lights here to try and mimic the ambient lighting of the final image.  I used a gridded strip bank for Ben's hair light with a red gel to mimic the red neon lights in the entrance.  The yellow light, camera right, was used to mimic the neon Villa sign that you don't actually see.  The beauty dish is used for fill.

So that is it.  Other than the 12 hours of Photoshop.  So here is the before picture again:

And the after...

Hope you enjoy the picture and if you have any memories of the Villa, let me know in the comments!





2.Terri Maxwell(non-registered)
My fondest memory of the Villa was when I saw Xanadu in 1980. Back then, they painted murals on the wall instead of the cool signs we have today. I was five and very clearly remember walking up to the theater and noticing Olivia Newton John's feathered blonde hair was painted all down the side of the seemed to go on for miles. She was larger than life, especially to a starry-eyed little girl. To this day, that movie is one of my favorites and so is the memory. Thanks for bringing the Villa back to life, Jon! :)
1.Michelle Harden(non-registered)
Very cool Jon. When we lived in Murray I often drove past Adib's and was sad to see that rugs were what was "showing" in that really cool building instead of movies. Glad you took the time to recreate a part of SL history.
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