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October 21, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Does phoenix mural signal rebirth for landmark Huntridge Theater?

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Joe Schoenmann

Garrison and Alison Buxton of Londonderry, Vt., add the finishing touches to a mural on the rear of the Huntridge Theater in downtown Las Vegas. The mural of a phoenix gives rise to suggestions the theater may be undergoing a rebirth.

Huntridge Theater

A colorful phoenix spray-painted onto the back wall of the defunct and decaying Huntridge Theater has led to a welcomed slowing of northbound traffic on Maryland Parkway the past few days.

Husband and wife Garrison and Alison Buxton of Londonderry, Vt., have spent a little more than two days on the mural, which was commissioned by “someone who cares.” They said the man asked them to paint a phoenix, a mythological bird that arose from the ashes to symbolize rebirth.

The fact that it is on part of the massive Huntridge, 1208 E. Charleston Blvd., suggests a potential rebirth or purchase of the property is imminent. The property’s current owner could not be reached for comment.

Opened in 1944 by a group that included actresses Loretta Young and Irene Dunn, the Huntridge is one of the earliest movie theaters built in Las Vegas. When single-screen cinemas became passe, the Huntridge billed itself as a concert venue. In 1993 it won recognition as both a state and national historical registered site.

Musicians who have played there included Sheryl Crow and Kelly Osbourne, daughter of rock star Ozzy Osbourne. Popular local band 12-Volt Sex played their last show there in 2002 before breaking up.

In August 2003, one of the most successful bands to emerge from Las Vegas, The Killers, staged a concert in the 1,100-seat theater. The Beastie Boys performed there in 2004.

Since taking over the building in 2002, owner Eli Mizrachi had suggested a few ideas for the huge building, none of which have come to fruition. His latest plan in 2012 was to obtain a city special-use permit for a secondhand store. Neighbors protested and the city’s Planning Commission voted unanimously against the idea.

Downtown Las Vegas is changing quickly, however, due to the influx of money from Downtown Project investors and the move this fall of 1,300 Zappos employees into the old City Hall, which is being renovated.

That has led to interest in livable neighborhoods near downtown. Some homeowners near the theater in neighborhoods such as Huntridge and John S. Park report receiving inquiries nearly weekly from real estate brokers wishing to purchase their homes.

The question now is whether investors consider the Huntridge Theater as a venue worth spending much time and money to renovate because of renewed interest in downtown.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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