Deward H. and Alson A. Shiner opened the Vernal Theatre on 29 March 1946, showing Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert in No Time for Love. The grand opening ad described it as “eastern Utah's finest moving picture theatre,” with “oceans of room” and “530 comfortable, body-form seats.” Among the well-wishes from contractors, De Luxe Glass Company of Salt Lake City said, “Congratulations! And a long run to the Vernal Theatre.” Over sixty years later, the Vernal Theatre is still showing films.
The marquee of the Vernal Theatre, installed by Zeon Electrical of Salt Lake on 17 January 1946, was about ten feet in height, with a clock on the lower portion. The sign gave Main Street “added lustre at night.”[5 & 6] Tickets were sold in an “attractive booth.” Frosted glass entrance doors led to a large foyer with an “interesting jazz plaster finish.” The auditorium carried “a tan and rose color scheme throughout with luxurious leather and frieze chairs.” The stuccoed cinder brick building measured 50 by 140 feet.
Retail space occupied the two sides of the theater entrance on the ground floor. D. R. and J. L. Barker of Heber City opened Barkers' Jewelry in the west side of the Vernal Theater in February 1946. The shop was 16 by 30 feet and featured watch and jewelry repairing, silver, and small electrical appliances. Roberts style shop, which opened on the east side by March 1946, held a fashion preview in the theater soon after its opening night. The second floor was divided into two or three “housekeeping apartments.”
Construction of the Vernal Theatre began in May 1945, on the old confectionary lot, with Manford Campbell as contractor. Intermountain Theater Supply Company supervised the decorating. The Shiner Brothers expected to open a new confectionary, featuring mainly fountain service, in a separate building just east of the theater.
Lela Jorgensen won the $25 prize in a contest for naming the theater. She was the first of several to suggest the name “Vernal Theater.” The Shiner Brothers received more than 200 submissions.
The Vernal Theatre showed its first 3D film, The Charge at Feather River, on 18 October 1946. “In order to flash the third dimensional pictures onto the screen, a special silver preparation is first applied, and then in the projection room other changes are made such as new lenses on the projectors, and a synchronization of the two projectors to show the films at the same time. Each projector furnishes one dimension, special polaroid lense glasses, which can be bought at the ticket windows, and are sold by the theatres without a profit, create the third dimension.”
The original carbon-arc projectors, which created light by passing an electric current between two carbon-tipped points, were replaced by lamphouse-style projectors in 1965. Reels were abandoned in 1978 in favor of a platter system which “feeds and takes up the film without the need to rewind.” A new sound system was installed Summer 1982.
By 1982, the theater's marquee had become difficult to maintain because “very few people know how to work with neon lights” and replacement letters for the attraction board were no longer being made. The management planned to replace the neon on the marquee with florescent lighting, but expected the marquee to “stay where it is, suspended by cable from the building for a long time.” City codes no longer allow that type of architecture.
1. Grand Opening Ad, 28 March 1946Vernal Express, page 2
2. “Vernal to Have New Moving Picture Theatre”, 17 May 1945, page 8
3. “Construction on Shiner Theater Makes Progress”, Vernal Express, 23 August 1945, page 4
4. “$25 to be Given For Name for New Theatre”, Vernal Express, 1 November 1945, page 5
5. “Lela Jorgensen Wins Shiner Theater Contest”, Vernal Express, 29 November 1945, Page 4
6. “New Marque Installed at Vernal Theater”, Vernal Express, 17 January 1946, page 4
7. “Jewelry Shop to Open in West Side Of Vernal Theater”, Vernal Express, 24 January 1946, page 5
8. “New Theatre Opens March 29”, Vernal Express, 21 March 1946, page 1
9. “New Theatre to Open on Friday”, Vernal Express, 28 March 1946, page 1
10. “3-D Movies Will Be Shown at Local Theatres”, 15 October 1953, page 1
11. “Marquee Still Glows After 35 Years as Landmark”, Vernal Express, 29 September 1982, page 39