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Local couple plans to renovate, reopen historic Kamas Theater

Social media users got excited when a Kamas City resident posted this to Facebook July 17.
Krystal Gutierrez Nielsen
Kamas Valley Information Center
Social media users got excited when a Kamas City resident posted this to Facebook July 17.

The rumors are true: the old Kamas Theater plans to reopen after almost a decade.

Heberites Blanca Partida and Reed Bearbower are the latest in a long line of family owners and operators of the Kamas Theater.

The theater has been closed since 2014, and now its marquee says “opening soon.” Partida and Bearbower signed a lease with the current owner, John Crandall, in early June.

Originally, Bearbower looked into using it as a workshop for his handyman business, but the couple decided instead to restore it.

“And here we are doing some upgrades and things like that to the theater to open it back up to an actual movie theater and other entertainment,” Bearbower said.

There’s no estimated date to reopen yet. Partida says there’s still a lot to do, and she and her husband have full-time jobs at Newport Academy in Oakley.

“There is no projector in there,” she said. “We have the old-school reel-to-reel 35-millimeter projector in there now.”

They still need to confirm with Kamas City they have the necessary permits and approval to operate. Until then, the couple and their kids are putting in some sweat equity, cleaning the place up.

Partida said she’s researching incorporating the Kamas Theater as a nonprofit, which could help it remain financially viable.

“We're not looking at this as a business venture and we're going to get rich off of it,” she said. “That's not going to happen.”

They do, however, think the theater can become a vibrant community gathering place again. Partida and Bearbower would like to see it host special programs, parties, cultural nights, celebrations of life—you name it—on its downstairs dancefloor.

The theater has always hosted a variety of events.

According to former Park City Museum Director Sandra Morrison, it was originally an opera house showing traveling vaudeville troupes, located a block north of its current location. Then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased it to show silent movies.

The next owners brought the first “talking pictures” to Kamas in the 1920s and ’30s. Tragically, the opera house burned down in 1942.

It was rebuilt that same year as the building seen today. The 283-seat theater operated from 1942 until 1999, according to an online Utah theaters archive, when competition from video rentals forced it to close.

As The Salt Lake Tribune reported, a hypnotist bought it 2001, with the hopes of making it a “Saturday-night talent search center and occasional playhouse.”

The hypnotist only kept the theater open for a year when the Sundance Film Festival found it.

The Deseret News reported Sundance screened such hits as “Napoleon Dynamite” at the Kamas Theater when it reopened, again, in 2004.

Partida and Bearbower said they’d like to see Sundance return. Egyptian Theater Executive Director Randy Barton noticed the recent renovation efforts and paid them an unexpected visit.

“He offered some advice and some guidance,” Partida said. 

Barton has a direct line to the Sundance Institute, and the couple is hopeful screenings can return, breathing new life into the community theater.

Corrected: August 18, 2023 at 12:41 PM MDT
A previous version of this article incorrectly said the current owner of the Kamas Theater is associated with the Crandall Funeral Home. There is no connection between the two.