From the turn of the century to the 1990s, from silent film to videotape, the motion picture industry has come a long way.
In fact, young people today may not even know the difference between film and tape, much less why what they see on a theater screen is bigger and sharper than what they see on television.Not to mention drive-ins, Cinerama or Salt Lake City's own film/theater history.
But Theatre Candy's Theatrical Museum and Popcorn Plant, which had a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday to mark its opening, hopes to fill in that historical gap, providing an overview for the novice and a walk down memory lane for Salt Lake moviegoers - a sort of mini-history of movies in general and Salt Lake movie houses in particular.
"It makes us a little different," says Norman R. Chesler, president of the family-owned-and-operated Theatre Candy Distributing Co. Inc. "It adds a bit of showbiz to us, and it's also a community service."
Utilizing the talents of local artist Dale Christensen, who runs the Arcade Theater and whose movie star portraits adorn the various Cineplex Odeon Trolley theaters, Chesler has started his museum in an empty section of his warehouse operation in the Wagner Industrial Park, 850 W. 2500 South.
The museum is free to the public and encourages group visits - from school classes to Boy Scouts to church groups to families. Groups of two or three or individuals can drop in anytime during Theatre Candy's regular business hours. For groups of four or more - or for further information - phone 973-9939.
The museum's centerpiece is a magnificently preserved 1927 projector, donated by Clayton Stauffer, which was once part of the 20th Century Fox screening room on Salt Lake's Film Row, where major movie studios had field offices. (Film Row is also memorialized in the museum.)
Also in the center are examples of theater seats, from early woodenfolding chairs to state-of-the-art modern fare.
On the walls are Christensen's murals, the core of which is a map of downtown Salt Lake City that shows where the city's first movie palaces were, surrounded by photos of those theaters in their heyday. It is labeled "The Lights Were Brighter." (Neighborhood and drive-in theaters also have their own sections, the latter complete with a speaker and heater pole donated by the Redwood Drive-in.)
There are samples of various film formats, from 8mm to 70mm strips, and even videotape. Movie publicity is represented by a variety of examples, from the oldest lobby cards to the newest posters, along with modern press kits that are sent by studios to newspapers when movies are released.
There's a section on Cinerama, the huge-screen process that played in Salt Lake City at Mann's Villa Theater, which is now the city's last single-auditorium, first-run showplace.
Wrapping up the tour is an area devoted to concessions - "The Popcorn Connection" - and the part they play in the moviegoing experience, which is only fair since Theatre Candy's main business is to provide snacks and drinks for movie theaters - and such other entertainment-industry showplaces as Lagoon, the Salt Palace, Raging Waters, etc.
That leads directly to the Popcorn Factory, which is adjacent to the museum and houses a new state-of-the-art machine that pops 200 pounds of raw corn per hour - for both consumption and popcorn packing, a device for the environmentally conscious in padding bulk items for shipment.
Chesler credits Christensen with the concept for the museum, which they've been talking about and gradually developing for a few years. "I wanted to show the public something about our industry and give something back. We're also trying to show why the theater business is important to the community."
And he's not done yet. Chesler hopes the museum will grow as more antique equipment and movie memorabilia come his way. He also hopes film buffs who become aware of the museum will contact him about anything appropriate they might have in their possession - including historic photos - that will help fill out this tribute to movie and Salt Lake theater history.