Cedar City Theatre|
(Thorley Theatre, Avalon Theatre, Cedar Theatre, Campus Theatre, Cedar Theatre, Cedar City Twin)
33 North Main Street
Cedar City, Utah 84720
(1913 - ?)
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Thorley gave the Thorley Theatre its name in 1913. In November 1916, the Parowan Times reported that a pool hall would move into a basement room of the theater. Miss Ruth Webster was employed as pianist at the showhouse in 1917, “furnishing some very pleasing music to the patrons of the place.”
In 1923, manager Allredge Thorley discontinued the practice of showing advertisements on the screen between reels of the film. “Mr. Thorley has found that the flashing of advertisements on the screen detracts unpleasantly the attention and interest of the patrons in the story being portrayed”
In January 1927, Thomas A. Thorley announced improvements to the theater which would provide better service, clearer pictures, and greater comfort for patrons. The remodeling included a new electric light generator, a new ventilation system, and “a large and entirely new up-to-date silver screen.” Changes to the projection booth and equipment were to provide “great speed and efficiency.”
The L. Strike Amusement Company of Salt Lake City leased the Thorley Theatre, taking over management on 1 February 1928. Mr. Strike operated a chain of theaters in Utah. The Salt Lake Telegram reported that the theater would be known as “Thorley's Gem.”
Strike spent $20,000 to $25,000 on a remodeling program designed to make the theater “one of the very best in the state.” “Although not so large as some, the theatre will be as elaborate and artistic as any.” The new management promised that patrons would “be shown every courtesy possible and everything done that will tend to make every show a pleasure to them.”
Improvements included a new “well arranged and curtained” stage, a new silver screen, new lighting system, rich draperies over all windows and doors, and an improved and enlarged heating and ventilating system. The seating capacity of the auditorium was enlarged and new cushioned seats installed. The main aisles were covered with padded carpeting. Beautiful cane loges were added and equipped with wicker furniture. Ceiling and walls were calcimined and painted in rich colors. A beautiful foyer was added and the ticket office was moved to the front.
The Thorley Theatre reopened 9 March 1928, with “That's My Daddy,” “a rip roaring, lively action, exciting, and fun producing play.” Accompanying the feature were “Behind the Counter” and Krazy Kat Cartoon “For Crime's Sake.”
The Iron County record observed that the “interior of the building has been considerably changed from what it was a month ago . . . the whole making a most pleasing appearance and one that will lend charm to the shows that will be produced.”
A new ten-section pipe organ was not in place for the reopening, due to “unavailable delay in shipping from the factory,” but was to be installed within a month. Organist was to be Mr. Osborn, a Cedar City resident.
John S. Woodbury
In April 1930, John S. Woodbury took over the lease on the Thorley Theatre that had been held by Mr. Beers for the previous year. Woodbury, who also operated the Orpheum Theatre nearby, made “extensive improvements” in both theaters to place them “on a par with any in the state.” A Filmtone movie talking machine, “one of the very latest and best models,” was installed in the Thorley. The new equipment handled “all sound-of-film pictures” and was “a great improvement over the machine that was already in place.” The opening features after the renovations was “Romance of the Rio Grande.”
Melvin R. Thorley
On 20 December 1931, the Thorley Theatre reopened after installing a new Western Electric projector and sound screen. The screen was “the latest” and “much larger than the old one.” Melvin R. Thorley, manager, promised “the best money can buy in sound pictures.” "Western Electric equipment is the best that can be had and with this installation gives Cedar City two of the best sound theatres in the state.”
On 1 July 1935, burglars picked three locks to get into the Thorley Theatre, then made off with $28 in cash. Police were working on several clues, but had not made any arrests.
After the show on Monday night, 19 August 1935, the Thorley Theatre closed for a $8,000 remodel that would make it “the equal to any in the state, outside of the larger centers.” The entrance and foyer were “completely changed making it much more attractive and convenient.” The interior was “redecorated and relighted, giving a beautiful effect.” New rest rooms and office space were arranged. On 8 September 1935, the project had reached a point where the show could continue and the theater reopened. New seats, to replace the old ones, had been ordered and were to arrive in the near future.
“Union Pacific,” which was filmed in Cedar City, held its world premiere at the Thorley Theatre at midnight on 2 April 1939. An effort was made to have the stars of the film, Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McRea, visit Cedar City for the premiere. To “satisfy the hundreds of people who will undoubtedly want to see the picture,” the show continued at the Thorley for a three-day run. The general release of the film was scheduled for 28 April 1939.
In May 1939, the management of the Thorley Theatre held a contest to select a new name for the showhouse. “In keeping with the spirit of advancement and modernization it is felt the name 'Thorley' by which the theatre has been known since 1913, is outmoded.” Anyone entering the theater between May 15 and June 1 was allowed to place a name in the entry box, “and may do so as often as they enter the theatre.” Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Thorley, who named the theater in 1913, were permitted to chose the new name from the hundred of submitted entries. On 15 June 1939, management announced the theater would be known as the “Avalon.” The cash prize of $10 was shared between R. S. Hart, Don Nelson, Clyde Loman, and Marguerite Neilson.
Mel Thorley, who had moved to the California coast several months previous, returned to Cedar City in May 1940 and resumed management of the Avalon and Parks theaters. Deck Roberts, who managed the theaters during his absence, was then transferred to Ephraim.
On 2 November 1951, the Cedar Theater, owned by Melvin R. Thorley, and the Parks Theater, owned by the John S. Woodbury estate, were sold to Eldon Yergensen of Nyssa, Oregon and Glen Yergensen of Monroe, Utah. John Rowberry, president of the Pix Amusement Corp. and manager of the two theaters, assisted in the sale.
Jack Sawyer & Westates Theatres
The Cedar Theatre was later sold to Jack Sawyer, who remodeled the single-screen theater into a twin theater. Westates Theatres closed the Cedar Twin in September 2005, after selling it to a private investor.
Howard Thorley, grandson of Howard M. Thorley, said, “The theatre is part of history, and I have the feeling that it's part of my family. However, when a business loses money, you have no choice but to want to get out and sell it, and that’s just what the owners did.”
1. "Thorley Theatre to Have New Name", Iron County Record, 11 May 1939, page 1
2. "'Avalon,' New Name Chosen for Thorley Theatre", Iron County Record, 15 June 1939, page 5
3. "Short Notes from Cedar", Parowan Times, 22 November 1916, page 1
4. "Cedar City Notes", Parowan Times, 29 August 1917, page 1
5. "Discontinues Running Advertisements", Iron County Record, 2 March 1923, page 1
6. "Thorley Theatre Improvements", Iron County Record, 14 January 1927, page 5
7. "Cedar City Theatre Bought by S. L. Company", Salt Lake Telegram, 27 January 1928, page 10
8. "Thorley Theatre to be Remodeled", Iron County Record, 27 January 1928, page 5
9. "New Thorley Opens Tonight", Iron County Record, 9 March 1928, page 8
10. "Change in Management of Thorley", Iron County Record, 23 April 1930, page 1
11. "Improvements Made at Theatres", Iron County Record, 17 May 1930, page 1
12. "Thorley Theatre Opens Sunday with New Program", Iron County Record, 16 December 1931, page 1
13. "Thorley Theatre to Close for Remodeling", Iron County Record, 15 August 1935, page 1
14. "Theives Rob Thorley Theatre", Iron County Record, 3 July 1935, page 4
15. "Remodeled Thorley Theatre Opened Sunday", Iron County Record, 12 September 1935, page 4
16. "Premier Showing of U. P. Film at Thorley", Iron County Record, 26 January 1939, page 1
17. "World Premier of 'Union Pacific' At Thorley", Iron County Record, 13 April 1939, page 1
18. "Mel Thorley Returns to Manage Theatres", Iron County Record, 9 May 1940, page 1
19. "Two Theaters Sold in Cedar City for $200,000 Sum", Salt Lake Telegram, 2 November 1951, page 38
20. "The Cedar Twin Leaves Good Memories for 92 Years", Cedar City Review, 23 February 2006