The first motion picture theater in southern Utah, reimagined and renovated as an arts hub.
The Electric Theater, built in 1911 with three-foot-thick adobe walls, was the first motion picture theater in southern Utah. It was also the first air-conditioned building in St. George.
Willis Carrier invented refrigeration, or “chillers”, in 1922 and in 1925 began installing refrigeration in movie theaters across the United States. Home refrigeration did not become common until the 1960s, so movie theaters were often the first place people experienced what they called “comfort cooling.” Because theaters were often one of the only buildings with refrigeration, they became an especially popular place to go to get cool during the summer, which is said to have contributed to the creation of the summer blockbuster.
In 1930, the theater was sold for $10,000 and renamed the Gaiety, but returned to its original name during a renovation. It stopped showing movies after 1999. After struggling financially for years under private ownership, the theater was purchased by the City of St. George leadership in 2013, along with two adjacent buildings. They envisioned the theater anchoring a downtown art district, which would strengthen local arts groups while highlighting the historical significance of the downtown area.
After a $3 million renovation that modernized the building while restoring its facade to look like historic photos, the Electric Theater reopened in 2015. It is currently operated by the City of St. George as an entertainment venue hosting events such as art and comedy shows, music groups, and theatrical performances with a focus on supporting local artists, local art groups, and emerging artists.
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