The Firmage Theater – Beaver Utah

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I love living in Beaver Utah. It has a population of approximately 2,500 and is located 200 miles south of Salt Lake City. There are no street lights and only a few stop signs. At any given time when I am out on the streets, there might be three to four cars sharing all roads within site. Driving a very short distance of five minutes puts me out into the beauty of the “high desert”. Beaver is the home town of Butch Cassidy.

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Today I want to take you on a quick tour of pure nostalgia I have discovered…the Main Street Theater formerly known as the “The Firmage” which was built in 1926. I had not been to a movie since Christmas while visiting family in Oklahoma. We were lucky enough to get into and see Avatar (which will be featured in a future blog). Family came to visit last weekend, Chris and his wife Kristin (expecting their first baby in May). Several years ago, Chris and I were weekend companions to whatever was the newest release. Living in Burbank California, the theater held 16 different screens…giving a rather large selection of movies to choose from each week. It was fun to be going to a movie together again…even if his wife was along.

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I found that in July of 2002, the Firmage was closed and put up for sale. The theater has a state-of-the-art platter system, 300 seats and 7,000 square feet of commercial space (two shops, one of either side of the theater). The asking price was $125,000. Scott and Jennifer Fotheringham have lovingly restored the theater.

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Jennifer Fotheringham serves popcorn to her niece Emmi Northington. Her son Bo at left, is next to one of the oldest theater popcorn poppers in the world, a vintage Manely, one of only 18 working models in the world. (Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune)

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I did not know any of the above details. I thought I would be entering an older style “cheap” theater. I should have seen by the details contained in the “ticket window” that EVERYTHING would be such a delight inside. Almost all of the hardware on the doors is original, most containing holes to fit skeleton type keys.

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Just inside the outer doors you are greeted by the main lobby with porthole doors (that I have only seen in photographs). Everything looks as though you have just stepped into the 1930’s. The carpet, the wood moldings on the wall, the couch..picture frames. So much for the eye to see.

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There were two display cases that contained artifacts from the history of the theater.

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Pictures of stars from the past hung at eye level on both sides as you moved down the lobby toward the concession stand.

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I asked Chris to get me a Diet Coke and I headed off to the Ladies room. The moment the door opened I could see that every detail of the past had been restored. I kept walking around the room…just looking. If you have been in a modern day theater restroom, it is anything but beautiful. This was magnificent. I kept thinking my iPhone camera would not be able to do justice to this place. Indoor lighting is difficult at best..but I so wanted to preserve this moment in my life.

We journey to a destination. But if we do not stop and look beside us or what lies beneath our feet…we will miss the more important part of our lives. This was all built at a time of elegance. People would dress up to go to theaters. The surroundings were always elegant..reflective of the pride in workmanship.

As we entered the theater I could hear the sound of the space heaters. I should have realized that the two large stacks of blankets were there for a reason. It was cool inside, the outside temperature was probably around 25*F. The screen was huge with thick heavy curtains on either side. It was too dark to obtain decent photos. The seats were new..they had cup holders. At the back of the theater there were couches which for ten dollars more you could rent for your family.

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The movie “The Lightening Thief” was a Chris Columbus fantasy film. Chris, Kristin and I all enjoyed the film. Not just for the fantasy contained in the film, but for the look back at a piece of history that has been saved for future generations. I have more family coming into town this weekend. This time I want to try some of the popcorn made by a machine out of the past.

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