ST. GEORGE – When the Electric Theater first opened in September 1911, the Washington County News called it “a very fine hall.” Just over a century later, city officials hope to create that sentiment with the facility’s new iteration as the Electric Theater Center which had its grand opening and dedication Friday.
Though delayed a few hours as work crews moved to clear out of the center so tours could commence, some were still on hand when the doors opened and visitors began to arrive. Members of the community were treated to guided tours of the 18,000-square-foot facility that is meant to be a place that strengthens the city’s various arts groups and draws people downtown.
“The whole purpose of this facility is to anchor the arts, to be an anchor to the downtown,” said Kent Perkins, St. George’s Leisure Services director.
The new center, which is comprised of the original Electrical Theater and what were once three adjacent buildings, will serve as a place to perpetuate the arts and play host to a plethora of arts, Perkins said.
The theater portion of the facility now has a raised stage where live performances can take place – and did during the center’s dedication. Among Friday’s grand opening entertainment were a vaudeville-style show featuring dancers from Westside Dance Studio; a barbershop quartet from the St. George Musical Theater; banjo-playing Jack Jepson; the Color Country Chorus; and the St. George Dixie Land Band.
In keeping with the tradition of the Electric Theater originally being a movie theater, visitors to the center will once again be able to enjoy watching movies of various kinds in the renovated theater that sports 306 seats.
Acting as the master of ceremonies for the dedication was Ernie Doose, executive director of the Roene B. DiFiore Center for the Arts and Education.
“It’s a huge contribution to the community, especially to support the arts,” Doose said prior to the dedication. “… St. George is really stepping up to the plate to support the arts.”
The western portion of the Electric Theater Center will feature a co-op gallery managed by the Southern Utah Arts Guild. Paul Jensen, a board member of the guild, said it will provide artists with a space to show off their work where they may not otherwise have the opportunity.
The guild currently leases the space where the art gallery will be featured, and is an example of how the center can be utilized by various arts groups and individuals. Space on three separate levels is available for art studios, administrative needs, storage or classrooms for workshops. The center also features open spaces where actors and dancers can practice and rehearse.
“The city’s done a great job with this facility,” Jensen said. “It’s a fantastic building. It’s going to provide a lot of opportunity to a lot of artists.”
City of St. George Mayor Jon Pike called the Electric Theater Center a “labor of love” for a lot of people and was pleased to see it nearing completion.
“I think (the center) is going to be be extremely beneficial,” Pike said, speaking to the potential impact the center will have on strengthening the city’s arts groups, as well as drawing people to the downtown area.
“Many people will be able to paint here, to perform here, to practice and rehearse here,” Pike said, “it’s just a fantastic place for people to enjoy performing and practicing. And of course the people that get to watch all that will be the recipients of the great talent that is all throughout our community.”
It is also a hope of city officials that the Electric Theater Center will be in constant use. Pike said city staff and arts groups will be working together to create and maintain a full calender of events.
“I look forward to having this stage full and busy,” Pike said during the dedication. “This is not meant to be a museum, it’s meant to be used.”
The city bought the Electric Theater and three adjacent buildings for $950,000 in February 2013. The renovation and reconstruction of the property cost an additional $3 million. It is yet another part of the city’s decades-long focus to keep the downtown area vibrant and ever-thriving.
City Manager Gary Esplin called the facility a new cornerstone of downtown where young and old can come together and share their talents with the community.
“That’s what this whole facility is about,” Esplin said. “It’s about giving opportunity to young people (and) old people, to display their talents … that we may not be able to see: To perform, to show their art, to dance.”
The grand opening of the Electric Theater Center continues Saturday at 1 p.m. with continuous performances until 7:30 p.m.
Acts scheduled to perform include the Snow Canyon Jazz Band, Dixie Madrigals, Southwest Symphony Chamber Orchestra, Santa Clara Friends, Dixie High School Dance, Pine View High small ensembles, Leisure EEEE, Wooden Tantrum and Siva Pacifica.
Some performances may be subject to change.
At 8 p.m., the center returns to its roots as a movie theater with a showing of the 1979 film “The Electric Horseman.”
While functional, finishing touches on the Electric Theater Center will likely continue for the next two weeks.
“It’s a big day, but we’re not done yet,” Perkins said.
- When: Grand opening events continue Saturday, Aug. 29
- Performances 1-7:30 p.m.
- Showing of “The Electric Horseman” at 8 p.m.
- Where: The Electric Theater Center, 68 E. Tabernacle St., St. George
- Admission: Free to the public
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
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