Utah Theatre

148 S. Main Street,
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 23, 2008 at 9:36 pm

During the summer of 1937 the Orpheum was remodeled. It was reopened as the Utah Theatre on September 29, 1937, according to a brief item in Boxoffice Magazine’s issue of October 2nd that year. The item mentions a new marquee and other exterior alterations, and indirect lighting. The Utah opened under the management of Holden Swiger, for the Fox Intermountain chain.

drsevrin on December 13, 2008 at 3:20 am

Grant’s site is back up … Hurray!

ghamilton on October 13, 2008 at 5:49 pm

YES!!This is a tragedy.Grant was a huge resource.Please notify,if you learn anything.He was very kind when I asked him for info directly.

drsevrin on October 13, 2008 at 12:02 am

I see Grant Smith’s phenomenal repository of Utah theater history, Utahtheaters.info has closed down. Anyone have any idea what’s up? I’ve emailed Grant and hope to hear back.

georgehill on April 11, 2008 at 10:01 pm

BIG,new banner on front of Main St.entrance advertising big future for theater,as Becker and the poers that be struggled to get the ball rolling fast.By the wa,I am the old ghamilton,for some reason,I was deleted from the membership list.

drsevrin on April 3, 2008 at 1:26 am

Big-city-wannabee Sandy unveiled its plans yesterday: http://theprosceniumsandy.com/

Not one, but three 30-story condominium/office towers, along with the broadway-style theater. It’s a visually-striking development and somewhat impressive in scope. But, “The Proscenium”, to me, seems too artificial and contrived for Salt Lake – sufficiently faux and yet insufficient in scope to ensure also-ran status even in Vegas.

Salt Lakers appreciate genuine history and culture, not some second-rate Venetian-wannabee that won’t have a single slot machine nor even a cheap buffet. But, look on the bright side, in the cultural-mecca that is Sandy, you can always catch some Taco Bell or Eat-a-Burger before taking in your Broadway show …

utahguy on March 19, 2008 at 8:05 pm

March 18, 2008

Contact: Helen Langan


Mayor Becker Announces List of Downtown Theater Action Group Members

Group Held Initial Organizing Meeting Yesterday

SALT LAKE CITY â€" The first meeting of Salt Lake City’s Downtown Theater Action Group was held yesterday and members of the group announced. The newly formed Downtown Theater Action Group is being chaired by Bill Becker, a Tony award winning theater producer and an expert in theater management and development.

Mayor Becker has appointed the group to identify the ideal scenario for creating a grand theater in Salt Lake City, one that will support Broadway caliber productions. The group is comprised of a cross section of business, cultural and religious leaders who all of an interest in the fast moving downtown project. As the project evolves, Mayor Becker expects that additional community members will come forward who will be central to the planning process and be added to the group.

Members of the Downtown Theater Action Group currently include:

  • Bill Becker, Theatre Dreams
  • John Ballard, New Space Entertainment
  • Steve Boulay, New Space Entertainment
  • Scott Beck, Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Jim Wall, Deseret News Publishing Co.
  • Rem Patch, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Bob Farrington, Downtown Alliance
  • Vasillios Priskos, Internet Properties Inc.
  • Nancy Boskoff, Salt Lake Arts Council
  • Jill Remington Love, Salt Lake City Council
  • Prescott Muir, Prescott Muir Architects
  • DJ Baxter, Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency
  • Ellis Ivory, Deseret News Board
  • Pat Richards, Utah Symphony & Opera
  • Christopher McBeth, Utah Symphony & Opera
  • Jim Bradley, Salt Lake County Council
  • Natalie Gochnour, Salt Lake Chamber
  • Dr. Raymond Tymas-Jones, College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah
  • Rick Mortensen, Attorney
  • Lane Beattie, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce
  • Johann Jacob, Ballet West
  • Melia Tourangeau, Utah Symphony & Opera
  • Patricia Richards, Wells Fargo Bank
  • Meg Holbrook, Zions Bank
  • Scott Anderson, Zions Bank
  • Denise Bégué, Ballet West

“Based on the initial conversations I have had with members of this group, I am extremely heartened that there is clearly strong support for any number of possible scenarios for establishing a grand theater in Salt Lake City,” remarked Bill Becker.

Mayor Becker added, “I have charged with group with a project that is of high priority to my administration. I am also expecting that they will move quickly to complete their work and bring the City a solid proposal for location and financing of the new grand theater. We are going to build a theater in downtown Salt Lake City and the work of this group is to figure out how.”

“We’re pleased to be a part of the process to consider this aspect of the future of Salt Lake City,” added Brother Rem Patch, Assistant Secretary to the Presiding Bishopric of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and one of the members of the group.

As the project moves forward, Mayor Becker expects that more members of the group will be added so that all voices in the community can be included in the planning process. The group plans to meet on a weekly basis and their meetings will be open to the public.

drsevrin on March 15, 2008 at 2:01 am

Is anyone else following Sandy city’s bid to undercut SLC in the Broadway theater business? I guess the Real Salt Lake soccer stadium wasn’t enough, now they’ve got to screw up the downtown arts district. It they succeed and this sounds the death knell for The Utah I’ll never forgive Sandy. As if downtown SLC hasn’t suffered enough. :(

tomdelay on March 11, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Have never been in the Organ Loft. When I was in SLC for a week last April, I drove over to the Organ Loft, but nothing was going on.

Judging by the photos in the Deseret News, I had no idea there was as much of the Utah/Pantages architecture left inside. You would sure never know it from looking at the dreary exterior. The artist’s rendering of a restored Pantages exterior would be wonderful.

drsevrin on March 11, 2008 at 2:23 am

You’re welcome. That was my first thought as well. If I have occasion to visit the Organ Loft I’ll inquire.

tomdelay on March 11, 2008 at 1:56 am

Seems to me there are some Morton parts in the Organ Loft instrument as additions to the Wurlitzer there. Thanks for the info.

drsevrin on March 11, 2008 at 1:48 am

Apologies if you already know this much, but the original Robert Morton organ was acquired by Salt Lake organ and theater buff Lawrence Bray and installed in the Organ Loft in 1946. It seems to have been sold in 1956. It You can read about it here: View link

Perhaps the Organ Loft folks know it’s history after 1956.

tomdelay on March 10, 2008 at 2:33 am

Anyone have any idea what happened to the original 2/16 Robert Morton pipe organ?

ghamilton on March 3, 2008 at 7:26 am

YES!! It would be a crime if the UTAH is not saved,intact and brought back to it’s deserved glory.AS the number of grand houses worth saving-or savable in a practicalsense,dwindles down rapidly,the UTAH has to be at that top tier of such projects in the entire country.Some savable sites have now gone past saving or are in places that have not the will or resources to save them-like the heart-breaking FABIAN in the horrendous heck-hole,that is Paterson,NJ-BUT there is no NO legit excuses for not turning the UTAH into a real triumph.I go to the NATIONAL Friday night to celebrate its new life with the Neville Brothers.I’ll come to the UTAH,on one of my frequent SLC trips-just GET'ER DONE!!!

drsevrin on March 3, 2008 at 2:42 am

This is fantastic news. SLC mayor Ralph Becker is trying to do right by Salt Lake and theater preservationists. It’s interesting to compare the photo of the theater as it is today, in the Deseret News, to the above photo from 1921. You’ll see how much of the ceiling work still remains, including the magnificent stained glass. You can also clearly see the flooring installed to separate the original theater, vertically, into two spaces. Here’s the link to the recent news piece in the Deseret News:
View link

This theater is crying out for preservation. It would be an absolute crime to fail. If the SLC plan goes through I only hope the original decor and layout are largely preserved.

ghamilton on March 1, 2008 at 9:07 am

Big articles in yesterday’s SL Trib & Deseret News on proposals to turn the place into a Broadway venue.The city is now in a race with the city of Sandy,to nail down the 2,500 seat class Broadway setting.The time is NOW to move and I hope the new mayor really stays on this.

ghamilton on September 15, 2007 at 10:48 am

Think how many cities would give anything to have a treasure like the Utah left.So many cities thoughtlessly let their last great houses go under the wrecking bar.I thought that a really far sighted group could even do what was done with the NORVA in Norfolk or IS BEING DONE NOW to the fabulous NATIONAL in Richmond-see the entries.I make not ,personally,like everything about the National project,but the concept is a proven success and SLC could surely support the venue of that type.No city of its size ONCE had the unreal collection of magfeakin' downtown theaters and the fate of the Urah has bugged me for many years.As someone who once lived in downtown,took dates to all the ones in the core,the memories are precious,the knowledge of what was lost sit heavy.I am priviledged to go to a REAL movie palace to a movie at my leisure(the BYRD),something the majority in the country can not imagine now.That is the trasgedy.

drsevrin on September 15, 2007 at 12:48 am

abbeynormal, you’ve made my day! That’s fantastic news! I wish I could have joined you for the screening/tour – this is something I’ve wanted to do since round about 92, when I last stepped foot in the theater. I can’t believe they actually fired up a projector in the ol' place! If you ever know of another opportunity to tour the place I’d be forever grateful if you could email me. Did you take any pictures?

As far as whom to contact about the current plans, I might recommend Dave Oka, head of Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency. I had a brief email exchange with him in 2005 about the theater, after I had contacted the mayor’s office about news of the theater. He was pretty dialed in to what was going on. His email address is:

Oh, and thanks for confirming that there are indeed restrooms on the mezzanine level. I have no idea why that bothered me; I guess when memory fades and blurs with the imagined it’s always a relief to find out you’re not crazy. I don’t make a habit of dwelling on restrooms, but in the Utah, even they were magnificent.

Thanks so much for the great news. Let’s hope it comes to something good. Maybe I’ll quit my day job for an usher spot ;)

abbeynormalcats on September 14, 2007 at 12:48 pm

BTW for MWK or anyone else that’s interested, YES there are restrooms on the mezzanine level…….:o)

abbeynormalcats on September 14, 2007 at 12:46 pm

GREAT WONDERFUL NEWS!! There are things happening at the Utah Theater.

Sorry for not posting this sooner, but I was sworn to secrecy. But I think that enough time has passed that its okay.

About 4-6 weeks ago, my boss at my ‘morning’ job was contacted to construct a screen for the theater. Knowing how much I love the place, he got me in to look around.

It was so awesome to be in there, I can’t find words to describe it, like I’d come home. Sounds kind of silly, but that’s how it felt.

It was a mess, I won’t sugarcoat it. The carpeting was gone, but the marble flooring in the entry was beautiful. There were some holes in the walls. In the lobby where the snack bar was, again no carpet, holes in walls—nothing major, etc. The snack bar, doors to the auditorium—gone. Seats, projection booth—gone. BUT the stage was still there, the wonderful carvings/scrollwork/woodwork is still there. The skylight in the Utah 2 (the upper theater) is still intact.

Now for why the hush-hush, rush-rush of the cleaning up. The Downtown Alliance along with Howa Construction brought in our legislators to try and get some money to restore my theater!!! Yes, you heard me right!!

They gave a mini screening of the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian”—an Anthony Hopkins movie made in 2005, and partly filmed on the Salt Flats.

I don’t know much about politics, so I don’t know the outcome. But I heard from my boss that there is going to be a fundraiser in November for the theater.

While I was there just soaking it in, one of the ladies from the Downtown Alliance thought I was part of the ‘crew’ and was asking my opinion on things. I’d told her I’d worked there when Plitt owned it she was impressed and asked questions. When I came by again the next day, she showed me the original chandeliers that had hung in the lobby/entry. They had found them the previous night in storage and while they didn’t have time to get them hung before the legislators came, they cleaned them up and left them for the presentation.

I want so much to be a part of all this, but I don’t know who to ask or where to go. Any suggestions? You think the Downtown Alliance is a good place to start? I told my boss that if/when it’s running again; I’d like to be a part of the management team. He said it’s something he’s looking at too.

So sorry this is so long, I’m just excited.

drsevrin on July 20, 2007 at 12:57 am

Thanks for the comment, utahguy. So, it seems the mezzanine level does have restrooms – I could, for some reason, only recall those on the main level, perhaps for their decor. It’s strange how memory can play tricks on you. As for the upper level, I believe it is a (spiral?) ramp that leads to the mezzanine, then a staircase up to the upper theatre entrance (or, of course, one could also take the long-non-functioning escalator near the mezzanine snack bar.) I think we need to lobby HOWA for a final tour if and before it gets razed.

utahguy on July 17, 2007 at 10:25 pm

MWK: I don’t remember anything about upper level restrooms. We might have been playing “Saturday Night Fever,” but it was decided by the distributor that the lower restrooms had to remain closed, otherwise those who had already seen the show might use (or just go into the restrooms) and then go back into the auditorium WITHOUT PAYING for another viewing. Therefore, everyone who came out of the “l” and wanted to use the restroom was directed up the stairs (or was it a ramp?“ to the "2.” That caused quite a bit of contention between the customer and the theater staff.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on July 13, 2007 at 7:45 pm

The San Francisco Fox; 5,200 seats (that’s right folks!) was destroyed in the futile name of progress and, a quarter of a century later, many are still crying over their loss and that includes me too!

The same thing ALMOST happened to the Fox in San Diego, but they stood fast and forced the issue to construct the new building OVER the theater. Hence, protected for life in many ways.

I lived in SLC during the 2002 Olympic Games period and noted that the local Mormon business influence is powerful enough to save the UTAH THEATRE. It could be open for overflow events at other downtown auditoriums or programs that would be best suited in that lavish atmosphere, especially film festivals.

drsevrin on July 3, 2007 at 1:32 am

No problem, abbeynormal. Thanks for responding. It’s funny how memory blurs into the imagined – was it there? Or is it my mind playing tricks … If this grand old place is ever slated for the wrecking ball I’d hope that we can at least talk Mr. Howa into a tour with cameras in hand. But let’s make sure it doesn’t come to that. I remember in the early 90’s, probably about 92, when the place was nearing “final” closure, I wandered in off the street as it was open and empty. I gave an impromptu tour to my wife. Now I wish I had shot video or at least photos.

There were so many aspects of its uniqueness that I enjoyed – like the skinny little escalators going from the mezzanine up to the upper theatre, the ornate bathrooms, the spiral ramp (?) up to the mezzanine, the abandoned snack bar on the mezzanine, great curtains, all the decor, or course. Looking back, in 85-87, when it was an art theatre, primarily, it was always a bit of a surreal experience to see a film there: there would literally be one or two employees working the whole place and you’d often find yourselves almost alone in this magnificent, majestic, once-proud auditorium, enjoying art cinema with the only the ghosts of a bygone era as company. I could practically feel the energy of old Salt Lake’s higher society. It was sad but magical all the same. No doubt this speaks to its demise under Plitt. The modern multiplexes haven’t an ounce of the charm or character of these grand old houses. If anyone has any photos that haven’t been made public I’d love to see them.

It’s so sad to me that so few people in Salt Lake seem to realize what they stand to lose. With the sole exception of the Capitol, there really isn’t another old movie house left in the city that can compare to the Utah. It’s majesty certainly matches or exceeds that of the Centre, in my mind, and I remember a fair outcry when the Centre was demolished. But the public seems mostly apathetic about the Utah, perhaps in part due to it’s non-descript facade and slow fade from the movie scene. Too bad. Here’s a quote from the Deseret News article about the demolition of the Centre in 1989 (thanks to Grant Smith for reprinting it on his site):

“James McPherson, who is on the board of directors of the Utah Heritage Foundation, said he and the foundation had hoped the Centre could be preserved.

“I recently visited Cincinnati for a convention and they are now agonizing about that city’s one big downtown theater being torn down several years ago. Today, it could have been incorporated into their downtown master plan. It’s too bad we can’t learn from the mistakes of others,” he
said. (emphasis mine)

McPherson felt that the Centre could have been utilized as a performing arts facility of some type, with the peripheral retail spaces used as galleries, boutiques, cafes or other arts-oriented sites."

And here we are … it’s deja vu all over again …

abbeynormalcats on July 2, 2007 at 1:44 pm

I too remember such restrooms, but still not quite sure. I worked for Plitt too. Sorry I couldn’t be more help……