The Electric Theater grand opening celebration was a weekend-long event starting with a dedication of the new Electric Theater on Friday, Aug 28, and continuing with a variety of entertainment on Saturday, Aug 29. Although the festivities were postponed a couple of hours for final clean up and finishing touches, the show went on. The dedication portion of the Electric Theater grand opening festivities played to a nearly full house of excited attendees eager to see the theater firsthand, and when all was said and done, the events highlighted the City of St. George’s commitment to the arts.
In 1911, St. George had many events which would prove to impact the local community significantly through the years: Thomas Judd’s General Store opened, The Dixie Academy building was constructed which is now know as Dixie State University, and the Electric Theater was opened.
The St. George Amusement Company opened the new hall on Sep 6, 1911. The Electric Theater originally included an ice cream parlor, roller skating hall, and showed programs by PhotoPlay entertainment. It had a seating capacity of 850. In an article about the 1911 Electric Theater grand opening, the Washington County News called the theater “A Very Fine Hall.”
The Electric Theater grand opening of 2015 was about the past, present, and future of the theater. Kent Perkins, St. George Leisure Service director, opened up the dedication by welcoming those in attendance and thanking those that had helped bring the reality to fruition. Perkins stated the construction in 1911 came in over budget. Originally, it was projected to cost $5,000 but ended up 400 square feet bigger and $2,500 more with a $7,500 final price tag.
The Electric Theater was the first building in St. George with air conditioning. It was also the location for the first public showing of Gone with the Wind, although that wasn’t supposed to be the case. When the movie reels arrived to the theater, there was no showing information attached, so the movie was put together and shown a few days early of its national opening date.
Through the years, the Electric Theater has had nine owners. The City of St. George purchased the building in 2013.
“What this is all about is giving an opportunity to young and old to show their talent,” said Gary Esplin, the St. George City Manager. “City management believes in asset for asset acquisitions.”
The City used funds from property sold near the Dixie Center to purchase the downtown property. In addition, use of taxes from the downtown district were utilized to assist in the funding of the project. Today’s Electric Theater has 306 seats in the auditorium. Additionally, there is space for offices, classrooms, and rehearsing. Another bit of information revealed at the Electric Theater grand opening ceremonies was the intent of the City to include a gallery for local artists to showcase their work. St. George Mayor Jon Pike told the crowd that the Electric Theater is not a museum.
Pike went on to express gratitude to those that had taken the risk to make the new Electric Theater project a reality. Recognizing some criticisms and concerns which have been voiced by community members over the past months, Pike was empathetic but unapologetic. He shared his belief in having a vital downtown and the commitment the City has made to keep it viable and a treasure in the community.
Following the dedication, the grand opening ceremonies immediately proceeded to bring out the entertainment. Ernie Doose of the DiFiore Center, emceed a variety show filled with jokes, laughs, and performances. Dancers, singers, musicians, and entertainers continued the tradition of making the Electric Theater a fine hall.
Saturday offered a continuation of the Electric Theater grand opening festivities with varied live performances scheduled throughout the afternoon.
At 8 p.m., the new Electric Theater showed its first movie. The locally-filmed “The Electric Horseman” was displayed on the big screen. Watching the film allowed attendees to see images of downtown from years gone by. Much has changed over the years, even since the 1979 film was made. However, one thing remains constant: downtown St. George continues to be a vital setting for the community. The Electric Theater once again will be a major anchor for gathering people. The fine hall will continue to bring people together to share and enjoy the finer things life has to offer.