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Exhibit chronicling Peery’s Egyptian Theater’s first 100 years now open

By Ryan Aston - | Jun 10, 2024
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The 100-year history of Peery's Egyptian Theater is told through photographs as part of a centennial anniversary exhibit at the theater, photographed Friday, June 7, 2024.
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Items recognizing the contributions of Van Summerill to the survival of Peery's Egyptian Theater are part of a centennial anniversary exhibit at the theater, photographed Friday, June 7, 2024.
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An original sidewalk sign advertising Ogden's downtown theaters is part of a centennial anniversary exhibit at Peery's Egyptian Theater, photographed Friday, June 7, 2024.

OGDEN — From now through August, Ogdenites, cinema lovers and history buffs alike can experience the century-long journey of one of the West’s few remaining movie palaces and an iconic structure in the Beehive State.

An exhibit chronicling the 100-year history of Peery’s Egyptian Theater opened Friday in the building’s gallery, just in time for its centennial anniversary on July 3. The exhibit will be open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is accessible through the box office. Admission is free.

Visitors will have an opportunity to view a veritable bonanza of photos and original artifacts depicting the theater’s ups and downs, from its 1924 opening through the Golden Age of Hollywood, the building’s decline in the 1970s and ’80s, and the restoration and revival that has occurred over the ensuing years.

“We started 10 years ago,” joked Darren Rogers — chairperson of the 100 Years Gallery & Exhibit Committee — of the curation process.

In truth, planning for the exhibit began more than a year ago, with work intensifying in December, according to Rogers. Committee members spent countless hours compiling photos and other items for the exhibit, with help from Sarah Langsdon — head of Special Collections at Weber State University — and others.

“We wanted to really showcase the magnificent things that have transpired during the last 100 years,” Rogers said. “It started as a movie palace and it has transcended to a performing arts center where we have the musical theater, we have ballet, we have the symphony, movies — all types of performances.”

As patrons move through the exhibit, pictures capturing the theater’s history and that of cinema at large are accompanied by a timeline narrative, compiled by Pam Higginson and Jolene Zito.

Many of the items on display came from the collection of the late Van Summerill, who spearheaded efforts to save and restore the theater during the ’80s and ’90s as it faced demolition.

Spotlighting Summerill’s life and innumerable contributions to the theater were of chief importance to the exhibit committee.

“We just want to pay tribute to Van, that one person can make a difference,” Rogers said. “That’s kind of the theme, too, that we all contribute to the success of this theater. … Van had a vision and wanted to save it, but it took an entire community to do that.”

Added Zito: “Without Van, there would be no theater. It would be gone.”

Summerill, who at different points in his life worked as a ticket-taker, assistant manager and projectionist at the theater, and later organized the Friends of the Egyptian Theater, passed away in March at the age of 81.

A documentary about Summerill’s life and contributions to the theater is being shown as part of the exhibit.

Other items on display at the exhibit include a ticket-taker’s stand, an original restroom mirror and restroom light fixture, a piece from the bottom section of one of the building’s original terra cotta pillars, pillows made from the theater’s 1950s-era stage curtains, original artwork and more.

Said Heidi Miller, digital media specialist for the theater and the Eccles Conference Center: “I grew up in Ogden and I did not know what was here, and I think it’s important for people my age and younger to know what this theater has to offer so, for the future, we can step up and keep this place as the jewel that it is. What a gift for the community. … I’m so grateful that Van had the vision and the grit and the determination to save this.”

The exhibit committee included Rogers, Zito, Miller, Langsdon, Byron Barker, and Kelly and Shelly Van Noy.

Up next as part of Peery’s Egyptian Theater’s yearlong anniversary celebration will be “A Century of Cinema and Song,” presented by Kids Act Up and Ogden Musical Theatre, a free event June 21.


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