The Kamas Theater is the only movie theater in the rural Summit County town of Kamas, which only recently got its first tricolored stoplight.
The theater was built in 1942 by Douglas Simpson and Glen Gibbons as a replacement for the Kamas opera house, which was destroyed by fire earlier in the year.
“Everybody thought we were crazy, but it worked beautifully and everyone loved it," Simpson said. The theater, which cost $60,000, was almost paid for when television came to town nine years later. "We thought another depression had hit, but it wasn’t a depression this time, it was television. Everybody quit going to the show and for the next nine years we didn’t make a cent in the show business, but we did keep it running. Then business got a little better, and we started making a little money.”
In 1972, Douglas and Teen Simpson sold their share of the Kamas Theatre to their partners Glen and Gwen Gibbons. Douglas Simpson, who was born in 1899, wrote, “I think being born at that period of time made my life very interesting and exciting because, it seems to me, that everything we have now has been invented and developed during my life.”
In 1999, competition from video rentals, in a town with only 1300 residents, forced the theater to close. The theater stood vacant for two years before being rediscovered by Don Spencer, a successful hypnotist who has performed for audiences in Salt Lake for over the past five years. Spencer planned to restore the theater and transform it into a Saturday-night talent search center and occasional playhouse, offering music, stand-up comedy, plays, old movies, variety shows, and, of course, hypnotism.
By 2003 the Kamas Theater was once again closed, but the Sundance Film Festival showed "Whale Rider" at the theater that year anyway. Sarah Komarek, in charge of Sundance's outreach program, said, "We love these theaters. We want to support them and help them stay in business."
On 26 December 2003 the theater was reopened by Phil Clegg, a former resident of Kamas who recently took over management of the Towne Cinemas in American Fork. Although Clegg only signed a one-year lease, he has already made improvements, such as replacing the theater's 283 seats.
On 21 January 2004, the Kamas Theater hosted a free screening of "Seducing Doctor Lewis" as part of the Sundace Film Festival's community outreach program. Even though people attended the screening of from as far as Utah and Salt Lake counties, the theater was far from packed. Although "Seducing Doctor Lewis" is a charming and innocent comedy about a small fishing village's efforts to attract a permanent physician, the word "seducing" in the title caused some residents of the religious and conservative town to think the film was R-rated.
1. "Talking Pictures come to Kamas", by Sandra Morrison, Summit County Historical Society
2. "Kamas Valley, Pearls of the Past", compiled by the Rhodes Valley Daughter of Utah Pioneers
3. "Theater Wins an Encore", Salt Lake Tribune, 19 July 2001
4. "Sundance reaches all the way out to Kamas", Deseret Morning News, 22 January 2004
5. "Kamas Theater reopens on Main St.", Park Record, 10 January 2004