It’s the Saturday before Christmas, and the Utah Theatre staff are preparing for the 6 p.m. movie. Popcorn is popping, and although there are still 45 minutes until showtime, a few patrons have already wandered in to buy tickets.
The lobby is elegantly decorated with fresh wallpaper and glittering chandeliers, a product of the recently completed renovation that, according to utahfestival.org, “Transformed a run-down movie house into a 315-seat, state of the art facility dedicated to creativity and excellence in the performing arts.”
Upstairs in the sound booth, Gary Griffin, the managing director of the Utah Festival Opera Company, sits surrounded by equipment and DVDs. He’s got quite the selection of movie titles, but he’s already known for months what he is going to show tonight.
“We have found over the years that certain movies at certain times of the year we will always do,” Gary said. “For example, we will always show ‘A Christmas Story’ with Christmastime … we’ll always show “Rocky Horror” and “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” in October.”
Tonight’s selection is the 1954 classic “White Christmas.”
The movies shown at the Utah Theatre aren’t always seasonal, however. Sometimes Gary picks movies to highlight a certain actor or actress. Like next week, when six movies starring Marilyn Monroe will be shown.
In the summertime silent movies are shown, and an organist travels up from Provo to accompany the film on the theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ.
“We have contracts with all the major studios, and I just simply email them and tell them I want to show a certain movie,” Gary said. “Sometimes I can’t, they’ll pull them. But for the most part … these old movies that we show, there’s not a lot of competition for them.”
The theater is a unique draw in Logan.
“For people that see an older favorite on their TV screen, they can come here and see it on the big screen,” said Taylor Griffin, an employee at the Utah Theatre.
According to Gary, the theater tries to stay away from R-rated movies, with one exception.
“I’ll show ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ just because it’s the most popular show … for the college kids,” Gary said. “But for the most part we keep to a lot of Disney movies.”
Thirty minutes before showtime, Gary will usually project recordings of concerts for early patrons to watch, and then he’ll show a cartoon or two before the feature film.
“We’d like them to experience movies the way that they were experienced back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, with a comfortable place that’s very nice, that’s light and cheery,” Gary said. “They can see cartoons and they don’t have to sit and watch 30 minutes worth of advertising before they ever get around to the movies.”