The Salt Lake Film Society Kicks Off Their Second Annual Summer Showdown


Mary Allen

(Design by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Graham Jones, Assistant Arts Editor


On East Broadway tucked between the Ken Garff Automotive Group Corporate Office and The Copper Onion sits a small, independent theater dedicated to showing the films most franchise theaters won’t: the Broadway Center Cinema, operated by the Salt Lake Film Society. For over the last 20 years, the SLFS has been a non-profit organization with the goal of “exhibiting, creating, and preserving” cinema and making it available for all. The organization also operates the Tower Theatre, which is currently under renovation but should be opening within the next year and a half. I spoke to SLFS events manager Zoey Wiltsey to learn more about the Broadway’s summer program of films, the 2nd Annual Summer Showdown.

Where It All Began

Alongside projecting new summer releases such as Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” the Broadway Center Cinemas will also show two cult classics each weekend that rarely get the chance to be seen on the big screen.

“It’s the evolution of what used to be our late-night summer programming,” said Wiltsey on the origins of the summer showdown. “It developed into this sort of competition almost where films are competing against one another to be crowned the king of summer.”

Winners get points through ticket sales, with the films with the highest attendance earning the most points. If there is a specific film you want to get a high score but cannot attend, you can also donate to it to ensure it earns points on your behalf.

This will be the second year the Broadway has thrown a summer showdown, their first occurring shortly after reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year, we were still kind of coming out of the pandemic, people were still getting back into the swing of being out, being in big groups of people, being around strangers, being around just people again,” said Wiltsey. That’s why the success of the first summer showdown was so incredible as the theater “sold out at least three screenings.”

The SLFS knew they had to throw another summer showdown after the delight of watching packed, joyful audiences streaming through their seats. “People were so happy to be out, to be having that experience, it’s that unique experience of sitting in a dark theater with people you don’t know,” said Wiltsey. “You just can’t fake that!”

New Year, New Lineup

Not too much was changed from the way last year’s summer showdown was operated, but the SLFS did try to differentiate the types of films being shown this year.

“We tried to diversify the programming a little bit just to include a few more interesting titles,” said Wiltsey. “Last year we were going with themes a little bit and this time we’re kind of like, let’s broaden our spectrum a little bit more and try to bring in some more weird stuff, do a little bit more of everything!”

The summer showdown screenings are also particularly special due to the giveaways and trivia that occur before the presentations, giving film fans the chance to flex their movie knowledge and even come away with a few prizes. 

Looking more specifically at this year’s summer showdown program list, I asked Wiltsey what films she was looking forward to presenting in the lineup. “I’m definitely looking forward to ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ because we’re going to have a 35mm print of that and anytime we get to play a film on print is a red-letter day. It makes all the difference in the world in my opinion to see something projected in the way it’s meant to be seen.”

Wiltsey also shared her excitement for “Troll 2,” “Starship Troopers” and “Can’t Hardly Wait”, the latter having its 25th anniversary this year. “It’s a fun one because it has that late ’90s, early 2000s high school vibe like ‘Clueless’ or ‘10 Things I Hate About You,‘” said Wiltsey. “I think that will be a really fun one!”

From my own personal experience, I can say attending a screening at the Broadway Center Cinemas is something truly special and is a reminder of how magical film can be. I know that personally, I will try to attend as many of the summer showdown screenings as possible and I hope to see my fellow students and Utahns doing the same! 


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