PBS Utah Takes a Nostalgic Look at Historic Theaters in Utah Movie Palaces

Press Release

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - 7:00pm

For over a hundred years, motion pictures have captured the imagination of audiences across the U.S. In the beginning, it wasn’t just the spectacle of the silver screen that inspired Americans, but the theater itself. PBS Utah’s Utah Movie Palaces reveals the enduring charm of these venues. The film premieres on Tuesday, September 1 at 7:00 p.m. on PBS Utah.

During the golden age of movies, studios and entrepreneurs raced to construct extravagant theaters in which to showcase motion pictures. These new opulent and palatial theaters came to be known as movie palaces. 

In Utah Movie Palaces, PBS Utah takes viewers on a historical road trip to theaters large and small across Utah. 

It all started in 1913, when Gunnison, a town with a population just over 900 people, opened the Casino Star Theater. Today, the theater still operates after extensive renovations restored many of the movie palace's original elements. Peery's Egyptian Theatre opened in 1924 in Ogden and still welcomes guests with its ornate Egyptian architecture. 

As the century progressed, so did the Hollywood cinematic experience. In Salt Lake City, national media mogul Alexander Pantages opened his 31st theater on Main Street. A few blocks away, the new art-deco style influenced the 1600-seat Centre Theatre on the corner of State and Broadway. Then in 1949, The Villa Theatre opened with a 32-foot-high ceiling. The Villa’s large size allowed for the installation of Cinerama, a new projection format that used three projectors to create a massive image on a concave screen. 

The film also shares the experiences of those who operated and those who attended these cherished theaters. Gary E. Bowles, a former movie palace employee said, "We offered to the people extremely inexpensive entertainment. We opened the doors at ten and closed them at midnight and most Fridays and Saturdays we were full, completely full. It was the meeting place of the city. I think we provided an entertainment outlet that they couldn't get elsewhere.” 

Utah Movie Palaces evokes a bygone era of moviegoing. Hamid Adib, owner of the Salt Lake Villa Theatre said, “Movie theaters come with so many old memories,” PBS Utah’s film offers a glimpse of how Utahns would find escape in local movie palaces and what it was like to become lost in “an acre of seats in a garden of dreams.”  

Tuesday, September 1, 7:00 p.m.

Friday, September 4, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 5, 5:30 p.m.

Last modified: 
Wednesday, September 2, 2020 - 10:56am

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