AKA: R-K-O Orpheum Theatre, Downtown, Salt Lake City, UT; Utah Paramount Theatre, Downtown, Salt Lake City, UT

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Priteca, B. Marcus, Architect (firm); Barnet Marcus Priteca (architect)

Dates: constructed 1919-1920

2 stories

144 South Main Street
Downtown, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

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Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca designed this lavish theatre for his friend Alexander Pantages, who eventually built a Western chain of vaudeville venues during the 1900s-1920s. The Pantages in Salt Lake City, supposedly costing $2 million to complete, seated approximately 1700 in its auditorium and 600 in a balcony. (Theatre owners often inflated construction prices to enhance the patron's wonder in the apparently lavish interiors.) Construction occurred in 1919, and the building opened on 12/01/1920.

Building History

Opening in 1920, the Salt Lake Pantages was one of the largest theatres operating in Salt Lake City, showing combined vaudeville and silent movie fare. Nine years later, Pantages empire was crumbling and the theatre was taken over by the R-K-O chain, becoming known as the "R-K-O Orpheum Theatre" on 09/11/1929.

The theatre was renamed the "Utah Theatre" on 09/29/1937. Ownership passed to Paramount's Tracy Barham division in the 1940s.

The Cineplex Odeon exhibition chain owned the Utah Theatre in the 1980s. According to the Cinema Treasures.org web site: "The CityRep group used the theatre for live stage productions after Cineplex Odeon let its lease expire in the 1980’s, but they were eventually forced to find a new home when the theatre was sold." (See Cinema Treasures.org, "Utah Theatre," accessed 12/03/2020.)

The Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency bought the vacant theatre in 2009, with a thought to adding it to its proposed theatre district. By 2019, The Redevelopment Agency advocated selling the historic theatre to a investment group that included the Hines Partnership and LaSalle Group. This partnership wanted to erect a 375-foot tall mixed-use apartment tower. on the site of the former Utah Theatre. (See Luke Garrott, Building Salt Lake.com, "Salt Lake City prepares to demolish the historic Utah Theater in the middle of its fledgling theater district," published 09/24/2019, accessed 11/26/2020.)

Building Notes

Priteca designed approximately 30 theatres for the Pantages chain; the architect got to know Pantages as both men began their business careers in Seattle, WA.

The Pantages in Salt Lake was identical in design to the chain's venues in Tacoma, WA, and Minneapolis, MN.


Owners of the Utah Theatre remodeled the building in 1968, walling off the balcony as a separate theatre and installing an escalator to get patrons to the new exhibition space. The Cinema Treasures.org web site said of the Utah Theatre's "twinning": "Most of the elaborate ornamentation in the theatre was lost in the 1960’s when a floor was added to convert the balcony into a second auditorium. A concession stand and escalator were added to the balcony level, but most of its ornamentation remained untouched. The lower floor had pillars added, apparently to support sections of the new floor, and any surviving decorations were covered with drab draperies." (See Cinema Treasures.org, "Utah Theatre," accessed 11/26/2020.) In the process of making this alteration, the theatre's historic integrity was compromised, although it could still have value as a community performance space, adding to Salt Lake City's rich cultural scene.

PCAD id: 5250