Built in 1905, the Orpheum Theatre is crowned by a 12-foot tall statue of Venus, the symbol of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. National vaudeville acts, ranging from comedy skits to scientific boxing bouts, performed on the theater’s elegant stage. With the rising popularity of motion pictures, the Orpheum Theatre closed its doors as a vaudeville stage in 1918. It was reborn shortly thereafter as a movie theater and operated under a variety of names. During the late 1920s and 1930s, the building was regarded as the most stylish movie house in town. In 1972, the LDS Church purchased the building, renamed it Promised Valley Playhouse, and restored it for stage performances.
The story began in 1938, when the Annie Pearl and John A. Howell family built a movie house in Draper-“The Pearl” was born. Vaudeville acts started off the evening and a movie or two would follow. Even a few big names, like Tex Ritter, graced the stage of “The Pearl”. During the depression, a bag of groceries was given away every Friday night.
Locals felt fortunate to have a first run theatre right in their small town. For many generations this building, now on the Draper Historic Register, served as a gathering place for the south end of the valley. Tales are told (by now upstanding citizens) of a cherry bomb or two set off during shows and of sneaking buddies in through the back door.
The Rivoli Theater under the ownership of Emil Ostlund first opened its doors to the public on December 22, 1927 with its first movie presentation, a silent picture titled “Loves of Carmen.”
The Rivoli was note the first movie house to open in Springville. The Star Theater in the block north of the Rivoli had been in operation for several years, but would soon give way tothe more progressive Rivoli which added a sound system for the “talkies” in 1929.
The movies, along with radio programs, became the most popular forms of public entertainment and movie going by the late 1920s was a regular habit for many Springville adults and younger people alike. New films were released in great quantity as Hollywood capitalized on the vast appetites of the film loving public. New films opened two or three times a week and the Rivoli audiences responded enthusiastically when the big stars of the day like Clara Bow, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford graced the silver screen.
Through the depression years of the 1930s and the war years of the 1940s patrons flocked to the movies for a brief respite from tough economic times and wartime worries. There were also newsreels for keeping up with current events.
Adding to the fun were live performances of trained chimpanzees and mesmerizing magicians. This mix of filmed and live entertainment continued until 1967 when Carl Lind, a new owner, remodeled the theater and renamed it the Villa. A few years later another group acquired the theater and it became the Villa Playhouse.
The Kinema was originally the Star Theatre in 1922. L.C. and Nada Lund ran it and when their son, L. Trux Lund took over he renamed it to the Kinema. It and the next door Queen City Dance Ballroom never recovered from the fire in February of 1990.
In the early 1900’s Park City’s social and entertainment needs were served by a number of flourishing theaters and social halls. When the Dewey Theatre, originally on this site, collapsed under a heavy snow load, John Rugar replaced it with the Egyptian Theater built in 1926. It was designed to seat 400 and to accommodate both movies and vaudeville. It became the first “sound movie” theater in Park City.
After being remodeled in 1963, the building opened as the Silver Wheel Theatre, and old fashioned “meller dramas” were performed for the next 15 years. In 1978 the building’s architectural integrity was threatened by an attempt to change its facade to a western motif. Preservation of its distinctive Egyptian features was achieved, however, when the building became home of Park City Performances in 1981.
The Egyptian Revival Style represents a unique period architecture which peaked in American around 1930. Egyptian theaters are rare, and this is only one of two remaining in Utah. Originally the interior combined replicas of Egyptian artifacts. This is a masonry structure with a false front shielding its hip roof. Tiles at the base of the ticket booth and pilistars in obelisk shape reinforce the Egyptian motif.
San Jose’s Century 21, Century 22, Century 23 Dome Theaters are a classic site to locals. My mother told me about growing up near them and going there often. It was also known as Winchester 21 it is located just off Winchester Blvd across the street from the Winchester Mystery House.