Utah Theatre

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

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Utah Theatre exterior

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The Utah Theater, also known as the Pantages Theatre and Orpheum Theatre, was built in 1919 for vaudville, but was later converted for film. For many years it was one of downtown Salt Lake’s great movie palaces. “The Sound of Music” showed at the theater for two years.

Most of the elaborate ornamentation in the theater was lost in the 1960’s when a floor was added to convert the balcony into a second auditorium. A concession stand and escalator were added to the balcony level, but most of its ornamentation remained untouched. The lower theater had pillars added, apparently to support sections of the new floor, and any surviving decorations were covered with drab draperies.

The CityRep group used the theater for live stage productions after Cineplex Odeon let its lease expire in the 1980’s, but they were eventually forced to find a new home when the theater was sold.

The new owner, a writer from Park City, planned to restore the building for live entertainment, but it never happened. The theater was sold again and the new owners started a restoration project, but apparently if failed.

The theater has been vacant for years.

Contributed by Grant Smith

Recent comments (view all 72 comments)

ghamilton on December 24, 2009 at 7:19 am

GREAT NEWS-I guess.In today’s SL Trib,is the news that SLC has bought the entire complex for 5.5 or 7 mil,depending on definitions,for a “film center”.All sounds good,so far.The article also includes photos of various shots of the place now.

Hyde on December 24, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Here is the article that ghamiliton was writing about. You’re right it’s GREAT NEWS!

Salt Lake City buys historic Utah Theater Downtown.
Aim is to turn mothballed classic into center of a film center.
By Derek P. Jensen And Rosemary Winters

The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake City has gift-wrapped a dusty downtown jewel for future generations of film fans.

After years of discussion, the city’s Redevelopment Agency agreed Wednesday to buy Main Street’s Utah Theater for $5.5 million.

Now, depending on the renovation cost and mix of tenants, Salt Lake County is eyeballing the onetime downtown destination between 100 South and 200 South as a future haven for film.

“This is really the first tangible step in creating a downtown cultural district,” said RDA Chairman Eric Jergensen, who pushed the board to close the deal with developer Rick Howa before year’s end. “I’m pleased. It’s a benefit for both sides.”

Jergensen said the sale is expected to wrap up by Jan. 6.

Once listed at $10 million, the city had a tacit agreement to finance the purchase of the mothballed theater for $7 million. But by using $2 million set aside for a county facility “near” Capitol Theatre, the RDA board was able to do the deal for $5.5 million cash.

“If the deal closes, that’s fantastic,” said Salt Lake County Council Chairman Joe Hatch, who scolded the city last month for dragging its feet on the purchase.

Hatch notes the county is eager to pursue the renovation and eventual management of what would be a film center, depending on cost. The County Council already has set aside some cash to evaluate that price. An initial estimate pegs renovating just the ornate theater portion of what is a three-building complex at $25 million.

“We can’t know how much it’s going to cost until we know who the tenants are going to be,” Hatch explained.

SLC Film Center, Salt Lake Film Society and youth-media-educator Spy Hop Productions hope to occupy the building. The three groups have worked together to create a vision for the film center, which could include screening rooms, studio space, film archives and media-arts exhibits. It also could provide space to visiting movie productions.

“The dream would be that it’s a facility for film and filmmakers, film production, film exhibition and … next generation storytellers,” said Geralyn Dreyfous, executive director of SLC Film Center, which screens flicks at Salt Lake City’s Main Library and other locations.

The Utah Theater, she added, is “such a jewel. Anything we can do to preserve it would be a great honor and privilege.”

Hatch expects decisions on a renovation timeline this winter.

In the short term, Jergensen said, the city’s RDA plans to fix up 15,000 square feet of retail space attached to the theater to provide more “activity” on Main Street.

Mayor Ralph Becker and city officials still are pursuing development of a 2,400-seat Broadway-style theater, known as the Utah Performance Center, across the street. But, according to RDA documents, the redevelopment of the Utah Theater “is vital to the success of the north end of Main Street.”

HowardBHaas on December 31, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Are current plans really to restore to its original grandeur the original single auditorium space or will it be subdivided into smaller spaces for different uses?

TLSLOEWS on March 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Nice old photos ken mc.

TLSLOEWS on March 18, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Thanks again ken mc.

William on March 18, 2010 at 5:51 pm

ken, the b&w shot in your post of Mar. 2nd. is from 1963 “Hatari!” the other one was 1953.

ghamilton on August 6, 2011 at 6:12 am

Article in today’s Tribune goes into continuing limbo of this wonderful venue.Best thing is a gallery of recent interior shots.

BobFurmanek on March 21, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Here’s a 1952 article on the popular kiddie shows: http://www.boxoffice.com/the_vault/issue_page?issue_id=1952-11-1&page_no=38#page_start

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