City officials plan variety of uses for downtown's newly renovated Totah Theater

New facility likely will not begin to be used until January 2023

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Farmington Civic Center supervisor Randy West envisions the city presenting at least one event a month at the theater.
  • Outside groups will be welcome to rent it for their endeavors, as well.
  • West also plans to use the theater to present regular workshops on on-camera acting or TV and film production for those interested in breaking into those businesses.

FARMINGTON — A regular rotation of film screenings, comedy shows, live music performances and other events are likely to be among the offerings at the newly renovated Totah Theater in downtown Farmington, the building's supervisor says.

City officials celebrated the grand opening of the facility on Oct. 24 with speeches and the screening of two independent films that were shot in the Farmington area, an event that drew a large and spirited crowd to the theater. Farmington Civic Center supervisor Randy West, who also is overseeing the Totah, told visitors he envisions the theater changing the atmosphere of the downtown district.

"We just really wanted to be a facility that can be used in a lot of different ways to bring a different nighttime energy to downtown," he said. " … I think we can bring a new flavor to Farmington with the reopening of this building."

Mayor Nate Duckett said the reopening of the theater demonstrates how the City of Farmington is committed to growing a thriving arts and culture scene. He urged those attending the grand opening ceremony to support those endeavors in the future.

A crowd gathers outside the Totah Theater in downtown Farmington on Oct. 24 before a grand opening celebration for the newly renovated theater is held.

"Keep that energy going," he said.

Former San Juan County Commissioner Jack Fortner and his wife, current Commissioner Terri Fortner, also spoke, noting that they hope the theater becomes the acknowledged evening hangout spot for local residents, helping bring downtown Farmington the kind of nighttime energy that can be found in nearby Durango, Colorado.

But that transition won't begin to take place for a couple of months. West said a fee structure for rental of the building is being put together and likely will be presented to the City Council in November for its approval, at which point those interested in booking the theater for their events can begin to make plans to use it. He said it likely will be January before the first events are held at the Totah.

West envisions the city presenting at least one event a month at the theater, although outside groups will be welcome to rent it for their endeavors, as well. He said it likely would take some time before awareness of the facility's availability develops among regional booking agents, meaning he expects the Totah to be rented more often as time goes by.

Farmington Civic Center supervisor Randy West discusses his plans for the Totah Theater during an Oct. 24 grand opening celebration for the newly renovated facility in downtown Farmington.

But West has plenty of his own plans for the building, which serves as a smaller alternative to the auditorium at the Civic Center. During an interview with The Daily Times after his remarks before the theater audience, West said he expects the Totah to play host to a variety of cinema events, including film festivals and weekend screenings centered on a specific theme, such as action films of the 1980s or films that have been shot in San Juan County.

He also mentioned the possibility of having special events during which live musicians would perform to silent films.

"There's a lot of ways to bond cinema and live performance, and we're going to look at that," he said.

West said the theater now boasts a 7.2 Dolby sound system for films, a new sound system for live music, a new LED lighting system, new heating and air conditioning systems, and a new electrical system, all of which will improve the audience experience and make the facility more attractive to booking agents.

Mayor Nate Duckett welcomes the crowd to the newly renovated Totah Theater during a grand opening celebration Oct. 24 in downtown Farmington.

There is also a small prep kitchen available, and West said that means the Totah could offer regular "date night" events such as comedy shows during which couples could enjoy simple food and a cash bar while watching a performance.

"There's a lot of exciting possibilities," he said.

West also plans to use the theater to present regular workshops on on-camera acting or TV and film production for those interested in breaking into those businesses. He emphasized those offerings would not be designed to compete with the TV and film production program at San Juan College but would instead by tailored as introductory workshops that give participants a foundation in those areas.

"We're going to be more of an entryway for people who want to make film in this town," he said.

The Totah Theater in downtown Farmington will offer a mix of cinema, comedy, live music and other events.

Once word of its existence, availability and flexibility begins to get out, West expects the Totah to find plenty of takers.

"I think it's a charming venue," he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.