Utah (Pantages) Theater

Preservation Utah Staff with a local news outlet in 2010 Preservation Utah Staff with a local news outlet in 2010

Preservation Utah has been involved with the Pantages / Utah Theater for nearly two decades and has long recognized the value it brings not only to Salt Lake City and Utah, but also as one of the few remaining representations of Pantages theaters.

Brief history of the theater:

Alexander Pantages was born in Greece in 1867. An American Vaudeville and early motion picture producer and impresario, he created a large and powerful circuit of theaters that catered to affordable entertainment.

Beginning 1911, Pantages became a builder of theaters all over the western U. S. and Canada. His favored architecture and the architect of this theater was B. Marcus Priteca (1881-1971), who devised an exotic, neo-classical exterior and Beaux Arts interior with elaborate decorative garlands, floral patterns, and shields of decorative plaster covering wall surfaces that his employer called “Pantages Greek.”

The original Pantages Theater (c.1872) was located at 44 East Broadway and moved to this location November 1, 1919 when construction was completed. A long hallway through an existing building was leased by Pantages for 50 years to create a grand entrance.

In 1929, Pantages Theater Co. assigned its lease to Radio-Keith Orpheum and the theater was renamed the Orpheum Theater. By 1937, the theater received a façade renovation and its current name, the Utah Theater. Starting in the 1970s, during the period of the Utah II, the mezzanine had its own concession stand and an escalator was added in the center, which split the space. In 1968, Intermountain Theaters converted the Utah Theatre into a twin theater. Much of the elaborate ornamentation in the theater was lost during the remodel. In about 1988, Cineplex Odeon closed the Utah and later leased it to Salt Lake Repertory Theater, known as City Rep. From 1988 to 1992, City Rep presented live plays in the theater.


A Brief Outline of Preservation Utah’s Advocacy Work on the Theatre:

  • 2004         
    • Position Statement in support of restoration of the Pantages / Utah Theater
  • 2010         
    • Provide free historic tours to the public (fall)
  • 2012         
    • Provide historic tours to the public (summer)
  • 2013         
    • Provide historic tour for Downtown Alliance
    • Second position statement in support of preservation and rehabilitation of the theatre.
    • Partnered with the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art Utah (ICAA) for a lecture (“Restoring America’s Theaters with Roger Morgan”) and tour within the Utah Theatre
  • 2015         
    • Provide historic tours
  • 2018         
    • SLC RDA presented directly to Preservation Utah’s Board of Trustees.
    • Third position statement in support of restoration of the site
    • Directly appeal to Mayor Biskupski to host an open house and distribute survey in collaboration with the City and the RDA.
    • Participated in a multi-month Survey Planning Committee
    • Asked to raise $60 million within 4 months by the City in order to save the theater
    • Survey was cancelled by the City
  • 2019       
    • Lecture on the history of the Pantages / Utah Theater
    • Actively participated and attended in community advocacy groups, RDA and City Council meetings
    • December - officially signed over to Hines and LaSalle

In addition to the public facing statements and events we provided to advocate for the theater, we have consistently been advocating for its preservation at relevant City meetings and directly with City departments and officials for nearly two decades.

We will be offering a lecture on the history of the Pantages / Utah Theater for a suggested donation of $5. You can register here.

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