Partners Are Key to Egyptian Theater's Rebirth, Revitalization of Downtown Ogden
By Lili Wright
Salt Lake Tribune, 10 January 1993, Page B1
Peery's Egyptian Theater is one of about 12 Egyptian theaters left in the United States, and only one of two that has an atmospheric ceiling. The theater was built in the 1920s and features exotic pharaoh murals, gilded columns, and a domed ceiling designed to resemble the sky. Using lighting effects, the ceiling can simulate noon, sunset, or midnight with twinkling stars.
The Egyptian had an organ to accompany silent films. The theater was once a designated bomb shelter and still has rations stocked in the basement. During World War II, the theater offered diversion for defense plant workers by showing films from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.
The single-screen theater could not compete with new multiplexes and closed in 1984. In that same year, the Egyptian Foundation acquired the theater. Van Summerill and other preservationists have spent the past eight years trying to save the the theater from the wrecking ball.
Pending government approvals, the Egyptian will become the anchor of a $16.3 million downtown conference and performing-arts center. A new two-story, art deco building would be built next to the theater for academic seminars and business meetings. The refurbished Egyptian will become the new home for Utah Musical Theatre, which has outgrown Weber State's Allred Theatre. The 700-seat Egyptian could also house concerts, dance or old movies.
The project is a complex and delicate union of six entities. The Egyptian Foundation would donate the building to Weber County. The city of Ogden would take a federal loan to buy the land for $1.8 million, which would be repaid with federal community development funds. Weber County would earmark $8 million during the next 20 years from its 1% restaurant tax profits and then lease the facility to Weber State for $1. WSU would operate and maintain the center with money raised from private donors. The Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce would market the center.