Public invited to Electric Theater Center opening

ST. GEORGE – When it was first built in 1911, the Electric Theater brought movies to the little town of St. George and continued to do so until 1999. It then played host to live entertainment and touring bands until the City of St. George purchased the facility in early-2014. City officials had a vision of turning it into a downtown arts center.

That vision took shape over the next 18 months and has come to fruition in the form of the newly renovated and rebuilt Electric Theater Center. It is a place city officials hope will become an anchor for a downtown arts district and play host to the visual and performing arts.

The city is opening the new arts center to the public Friday, with free guided tours starting at 1 p.m., followed by a dedication ceremony at 6 .p.m.

Live entertainment of all kinds will be held on Saturday starting at 1 p.m.

There will be all kinds of different acts that’ll be at the theater,” St. George Leisure Services Director Kent Perkins said. “There’ll be be jazz, chamber music, show tunes and dance, choirs, Pacific Islander-type music – a cross section of stuff.”

Topping off the evening Saturday will be a showing of the 1979 movie “The Electric Horseman,” which was filmed in St. George, at 8 p.m.

The event is free to the public.

Overall, Perkins said, people with any familiarity with the Electric Theater will be blown away by the way it looks now.

It’ll look like a historic theater on steroids,” Perkins said.

The exterior of the theater has been restored with a 1911-era look, yet it is enhanced with high-tech sound and lighting systems.

“We’re kind of hearkening back in terms of history,” Perkins said.

The exterior has also been given a face-lift. The outdoor façade resembles how the theater looked in 1911, but accompanied by a small, landscaped plaza in front with period benches and light posts. The plaza also will showcase sculptures and other pieces of art, Perkins said.

So it’ll give you a real sense from the outside that this facility is an arts facility,” he said.

The City of St. George brought the theater and three adjacent buildings in February 2013 for $950,000. An additional $3 million has since gone into the renovation of the historic theater and the reconstruction of the neighboring buildings into an 18,000 square-foot multipurpose arts center.

A feasibility study was commissioned by the city a few years ago concerning the city’s need for a theater/arts complex. While the study concluded there was a possible need for such a complex, its findings also recommended the city strengthen its local arts groups first.

City officials have said the conversion of the Electric Theater into a downtown arts center is a step toward doing that.

The Electric Theater Center is slated to be a place where various nonprofit art groups can rent space for performances, galleries, workshops, educational programs, artist studios, administrative needs, storage and so forth.

It will also be a place where the public can participate in art workshops, watch performances of various kinds and see a movie or two.

City officials also hope to maintain a constant calendar of activity at the facility once it officially opens.

“The purpose is to maintain a high-level of activity,” Perkins said.

The City expects the Electric Theater Center to draw people to the downtown area and its developing art district along with the nearby St. George Children’s Museum, St. George Opera House and Art Museum.

Event recap

  • When: Friday and Saturday, Aug 28-29
    • Friday
      • Open house and tours: 1-5:30 p.m.
      • Dedication: 6 p.m., with refreshments at 7 p.m.
    • Saturday
      • Live entertainment: 1-7:30 p.m.
      • The Electric Horseman showing: 8 p.m.
  • Where: The Electric Theater Center, 68 E. Tabernacle St., St. George.

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