Salt Lake hosted Hollywood premieres, some in lost movie palaces

Published: Sunday, Oct. 16 2011 11:35 p.m. MDT

Opening in 1937, the Centre Theatre was a great example of a true movie palace. The Centre's first movie, "True Confession," starred Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray and John Barrymore.

Utah State Historical Society

SALT LAKE CITY — This past weekend, a new Larry H. Miller theater opened in Centerville, a big one with 14 screens. Also Utah-born Julianne Hough is starring in the lead role of the remake of "Footloose." The original movie was filmed in Utah in 1984, four years before Hough was born.

The movie industry is important in the Beehive State and has been since near the turn of the 20th century. We not only watch movies, but we have built some great movie palaces and we have had more than our fair share of movies made within the state's boarders.

Movie theaters were and are still great getaways — from the era of silent movies to the latest 3-D, Imax and surround sound variations. They remain a great escape from everyday life. The movie palaces of the 1930s and '40s were works of art, as well as places to stay cool, and always a great place to take a date.

There were a lot of theaters in Salt Lake: the Gem, Paramount, Lyric, Studio, Centre, Utah, Victory and Capitol, to name a few. These theaters only had one screen, and many had stages for live shows that came with the movie. Then you would have cartoons and maybe a serial like "Buck Rogers" or a western, and there were always two movies shown, not one. You can see photos of these theaters and movie premiers in the photo gallery at www.DesNews.com.

We had some big premieres in Utah, "Brigham Young," "Ramrod," "Smoky" and "Union Pacific." The "Brigham Young" movie premiere in 1940 was especially large. The studios brought in a full planeload of stars and the producer, Darryl F. Zanuck. A press conference was held at the airport and a motorcade of convertible automobiles took the cast to downtown for a parade. It was a big event for the city with all the lights, stars and parties that came with the opening of this movie.

We can all remember the theater were we saw some of our favorite movies like "Star Wars," "Young Frankenstein" or "Titanic." One only needs to go in the restored Capitol Theatre on Second South to see what the golden age of theaters looked like.

If you have an interest in learning more about Utah's role in moviemaking, take a look at James D'Arc's book titled "When Hollywood Came to Town."

The public is invited to submit historical photos to UtahHistoryPhotos@gmail.com. Photos or scans are sought of famous visitors to Utah. Information will then be made available on the importance or value of the photographs. Donations to colleges and universities, and state and local historical societies or church history libraries are encouraged, rather than historic images falling into disrepair or being discarded.

Ronald Fox owns a governmental relations and marketing firm. He is a photo historian and coauthor of "When the White House Comes to Zion." He has served as an advance man for five U.S. presidents.

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