Visions of a film center on Main Street now include brick and mortar.

Salt Lake City's Redevelopment Agency agreed Tuesday to buy the historic Utah Theater and neighboring retail spaces for $7 million.

The shuttered buildings -- at 144 S. and 156 S. Main -- are owned by developer Rick Howa and are across the street from the city's planned Broadway-style theater.

"A film center is central to downtown's cultural corridor," Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, said in a statement. "The Utah Theater has languished for many years, and now there is movement and a clear plan going forward as part of a larger vision for Main Street. This is great news."

The Salt Lake Film Society, SLC Film Center and Spy Hop Productions want to create a venue for independent films and art exhibitions that could be used by the Sundance Film Festival and other groups.

The venture has been pushed by, among others, Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank.

To pay for the properties, the RDA is soliciting proposals from banks willing to offer a $10 million revolving line of credit at 1 percent interest, with no principal payments due until 2015. The money also could fund other expenses related to creating a downtown cultural district.

In April, Salt Lake County adopted an expansive cultural master plan that includes the film center as one of 15 "master plan projects" recommended for county funds.

The Utah Theater was passed over last year in the capital's casting call for a space for a 2,400-seat Broadway playhouse. Mayor Ralph Becker instead picked the Newspaper Agency Corp. building across Main.

A renovation of the Utah Theater for the center has been pegged at roughly $25 million.

The theater debuted in 1918 as a stage for vaudeville performances. Later it became a movie house, but has not functioned as one since Cineplex Odeon left in the 1980s.

"It's had a very important place on Main Street for decades," said City Councilman Eric Jergensen, who is chairman of the Redevelopment Agency Board. "We have the ability to take it and rejuvenate it as a very important place on Main Street for decades to come."