Salt Lake used to have a number of great movie houses; the Center Theatre, the Villa, the Utah Theatre, and the Lyric are ones that I remember well.
By the time I got to Salt Lake in 1969, coming out from New York where I was raised, the Lyric had become a rather seedy second-run joint, but in the 40’s it was very active both as a live theatre and as a movie house – it became known as the Lyric sometime around 1947.
Lyric Theatre, February 24, 1947 – Found at Utah Heritage Society
In a touch of serendipity, Pinocchio is the movie I recall seeing at the lyric around 1969; I had several hours to kill before I caught a bus to Los Angeles to visit my dad, and I remember sitting in the theatre and watching the whole show 3 times in a row. Back in those days they had newsreels, shorts, cartoons, and a feature presentation. If you came in late, you could just stay until the next show began. Frankly, I miss those days.
Lyric Theatre Interior
In 1971 it was closed as a movie house, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bought the building and remodeled it as the Promised Valley Playhouse. During the course of ripping down the marquee, beautiful sculptures were uncovered; the Church hired a restoration expert, and the façade was restored to its original appearance.
The newly-restored Promised Valley Playhouse
Entryway sculptures – closeup
The Venus statue was restored by Arcstone Casting and Design. The original work was created of hammered tin; the statue was restored through composite materials and a new steel armature.
The theatre was used by the Church for local productions and also by the community; my own son had the privilege of performing there as part of a stake play when he was about 12. Tragically, theatre closed in 1996 due to structural problems.
Salt Lake County paid $50,000 for an architectural study, but voted on July 17 2001 against purchasing or leasing the theatre because of the high cost of restoring it. The study concluded that restoration of the Orpheum Theater (the original name when it was constructed in 1911) would cost between $2 million (for a basic seismic upgrade) and $30 million (for a full restoration).
The owner of the building, Zions Securities, demolished the building in 2003 for a multi-story car park; the facade and lobby was preserved and used for office and retail space.
The Lyric is gone, but it will always exist in memory.
The Old Wolf has spoken.