When walking into the Angelus Theatre in Spanish Fork, there’s a lot to take in.
There’s the architecture, the people, the events they host. And then there’s the history of the 105-year-old theater.
“Honestly, I think you can’t help but feel that the minute you walk through the theater,” Curt Gordon, one of the owners of Boothe Brothers Music, said.
While there are extra costs associated with maintaining an older building, Gordon said he knows it’s worth it — he feels it every time he goes inside.
“To me, it’s far more important to deal with that and keep the momentum going since this place has been here since 1912 and has so much good human energy and memories and good feelings,” Gordon said. “I can feel that and it makes gives me kind of a sense of where I’m at as a citizen. … So I think it’s well worth keeping that going to restore and preserve those things.”
The Angelus Theatre opened in 1912, and made a name for itself hosting live vaudeville theatre and showing movies. It burned down in 1948 and was completely destroyed, but was rebuilt in less than two years.
Over the years, it’s held many names, including Main Street Movie, Boothe Brothers Performing Arts Center and the Royal Palace Theatre, and functions.
But in September, the theater had its grand re-opening after more than a year of restoration.
Gordon said he is looking forward to the upcoming run of the “Christmas Carol,” which will be running every Monday, Friday and Saturday in December as well as all week long leading up to Christmas. There are other regular open-mic jam sessions, dance recitals, productions and fundraisers also coming to the theater.
“We are so happy to be going again, and we feel like it’s a great place for the community to come out,” Gordon said. “We are continuing to work to that and there are so many things we are planning to do.”
History of the theaters
The Angelus Theatre is just one of a handful of historic theaters in Utah County that continues to operate as a performing arts venue or movie theater. There are shells of theaters scattered around the county, and many others that were demolished to make way for growth or lost over time.
Entertainment, and as a result theaters and performing venues, have been important parts of cities since the early days of many Utah towns.
Brigham Young, the second prophet of the LDS Church, is famously quoted as saying, “If I were placed on a cannibal island and given the task of civilizing its people, I should straightway build a theatre for the purpose.”
The arts and entertainment gave the growing communities another focus, Daryl Tucker, a member of the Springville Historical Society and Springville Arts Commission, said.
“The fact of the matter is he really thought everybody should have culture and they should have entertainment,” Tucker said in a previous interview with the Daily Herald. “You are living out here in this god forsaken place you are trying to establish and people needed a diversion. Brigham Young really got it going.”
Restoring the Rivoli
In Springville, Tucker said that call resulted in a series of opulent opera houses. The first blew down, the second was burned.
Another of the historic theaters, the Rivoli, is set to rise again after years of standing empty. In September, Melissa Cannon took on the theater, which is in need of renovations, and hopes to bring it back to public use.
The Rivoli Theater, in its current iteration, was built in 1937. A theater opened in part of the venue’s space in 1927, but 10 years later it was renovated and expanded. Springville acquired the theater in 2008, but since then it has been largely empty.
Once completed, Cannon said they expect to show films and have the space available for stage performances and community events. She’d also like to start a nonprofit, bring in film festivals, screen student films and other items with connections to the area.
“I at least don’t feel like there’s any way we can compete with the Cinemarks and the big theater chains because there aren’t that many seats in here,” Tucker said in a previous interview.
“We have to have unique stuff,” Cannon added.
The SCERA Center for the Arts is another of Utah County’s historic theaters that has stood the test of time.
The nonprofit organization began in 1933 with the help of residents to bring the community together and enjoy the arts. They started showing movies at a local school before the Center for the Arts was opened in 1941.
In the many years since then, Adam Robertson, president and CEO of SCERA, said they have worked to make sure their movies are family-friendly.
“From day one to the present, they have always been family friendly and SCERA has never shown a rated R movie and very few PG-13,” he said. “Even the others, we screen them for content before we show them. We feel like that it’s important for the community and the value system here.”
The Center for the Arts has two theaters, the Grand Theatre and the Showhouse II, which is where many of their performances take place and some movies are shown. In the Grand Theatre, residents can catch a movie Mondays through Saturdays.
“We realize we aren’t a megaplex and we aren’t going to be,” Robertson said. “Some people like to show up at 7 p.m. and find something (to see), and we realize they need to know what times and shows we have, but if we have what they will like to see, we encourage them to come here.”
While they may not be a megaplex, they do have other amenities and things that set them apart, he said.
The Grand Theatre, which was fully remodeled a few years ago, is fully digital, seats 750 people and has one of the largest screens in the state.
“We have long-range plan for that space and it always has movies in it but we also want to fully develop into a performance space as well,” he said.
Robertson said they also make a point of keeping prices affordable so families will feel like they can come to the movies without having to spend a lot of money.
“The point is, especially in this area where you have large families, there is place you can go and still get refills on drinks and popcorn and not have to pay a lot for that,” he added.