Brief by Central Staff
Salida theater – May 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine
Salida’s Unique is Still Alive
Although it’s been closed for quite a while, the Unique Theater in Salida is alive and well. Owner John Groy closed the Unique earlier this year for cleaning, painting, and minor renovations, but illness and a death in the family delayed the project. Before long, many Salidans assumed the worst — that the old theater was gone for good.
But when we talked to Groy, work on the theater was nearly completed, and he hoped to reopen by April 18 — which means the Unique should be open by the time you read this.
Groy apologized for causing undue concern, but assured us that he had not made any major changes. The Unique is now cleaner and brighter, but basically the same.
Bigger plans are under discussion, however. Recently, a group formed to explore the possibility of historical restoration, and Groy is enthusiastic about the idea. “They’re welcome to try and see if they can get money for an historical upgrade,” he said. “I’d appreciate the help.”
“But this business is privately owned,” Groy said, and he is determined to keep it a theater. He wouldn’t want to see it turned into a furniture store or a museum.
The theater was built in the 1880s as an opera house, and was designed to host live performances. “It’s still all there,” said Gray. “The stage, the storage rooms…” So more live performances are a definite possibility.
But Groy would like to couple live performances with movies. “It’s a big theater,” he said, “with a big screen, and a big auditorium,” — which he feels is just perfect for today’s big productions like Evita and Star Wars.
Groy also owns the Pearl in Buena Vista, but he thinks there’s something about how such larger-than-life modern movies play at a big theater like the Unique that’s special.
As for the historical significance of the Unique, Groy doesn’t question it. His father owned the theater before him, and the family has always recognized the decorative motif of past years and tried to preserve it.
When Groy was a boy, he took piano lessons from Mrs. Charles Upp (the mother of the television repair shop owner). She played the organ for the silent movies. Over the years, Groy’s father filled in the old orchestra pit, and replaced the terracing on the main floor with a ramp for safety’s sake, but the building has deliberately been kept much the same as Groy remembers it as a child. Now, Dwight Finney is heading a committee to restore the old place.
Finney became interested in the restoration of the Unique while rebuilding the sound system. “People say, `Why him?'” Finney admits. “But I say, `why not me?’ Someone’s got to do it, and I’ve been interested in this theater for eight years.”
Thus far, Finney has collected material on the building’s history, and received some interest from Coke USA in financing a new marquee.
He’s still investigating what an historical restoration would entail, however, and expressed a little worry about the building’s stucco facade, because the original brick exterior can’t be uncovered. “There was just too much deterioration of the bricks,” he said.
Still, he’s optimistic about the future, because the Unique is one old opera house that’s been kept remarkably unchanged.
Those interested in the restoration can call Finney at Riff Raff Records and Precision Discs, 719-539-5457.