Thursday, June 13, 2019

5 Great Places to Enjoy Art House Cinema in Utah

5 great places to enjoy art house cinema in Utah

If you mention Utah to the average person, the first thing most will probably think of is gorgeous red rock, snow sports, or Mormons. The Beehive State is a popular destination for many. Outdoorsy types in particular flock to the area for the opportunity to explore the incredible landscape. Film lovers, on the other hand, likely consider Utah the capital of art house cinema. The Sundance Film Festival, America’s largest independent film event for the last 41 years, is held primarily in Park City. Just a short drive from Salt Lake, Park City has made Utah somewhat of an oasis for independent filmmaking.

Art house (independent) films are created outside the influence of Hollywood and the mainstream filmmaking system for a variety of reasons. Major studios are generally unwilling to finance projects with niche audiences or hyper-specific topics. It is difficult to make a profit on films few people will want to see. However, they have grown in popularity over the years. This rise in popularity can be partially attributed to the Sundance Film Festival, which has brought independent film not just to Utahns but Americans everywhere.

Here are some places in Utah where anyone can start their independent film journey:

Salt Lake City

One of the first places you should look is in Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah. The Salt Lake City Film Society is a nonprofit community for art house cinema that provides access to independent film, documentaries, and international film. Their goal is to use cinema to educate about cinema. They currently have two locations, the Broadway Centre and the Tower, each with their respective strengths.

old-fashioned photo of the Broadway Centre Theatre from the street

Broadway Centre Cinemas

Located in downtown Salt Lake at 111 E. Broadway, the Broadway Centre is known for showing films that may not be available anywhere else. You can always find a variety of interesting events on their calendar, including special guests, premieres, and celebrations like Summer Late Nights. If you are at all interested in an independent or limited release film, your best bet of seeing it in theaters is a visit to the Broadway Centre. Besides unique films, this theatre is also popular for its unique concessions offerings and quirky aesthetic.

You can find movie times and future releases at the Broadway Centre on the Salt Lake Film Society’s website.

Tower Theatre showing Sundance films

Tower Theatre

If you’re looking to shake things up, head on down to 9th East & 9th South and visit the Tower. This historic theatre is the oldest cinema still in operation in the Salt Lake Valley, making it a must-visit in more ways than one. While the Broadway Centre shows more traditional independent films, you might be craving something different. The Tower has you covered. Here you can watch titles a little more on the wild side, though that does not mean all its offerings are considered grindhouse. For example, it often offers classic films on weekends.

If you’re not interested in sticking around Salt Lake City, don’t worry. Try these other locations:

movie posters in the window of The 502

Cinema 502

Want to go even further away from the mainstream? Try visiting Cinema 502, on Historic 25th Street in Ogden. This cinema, named for its incredibly small square footage, is already marked by its choice to only show independent films. It goes a step further to distinguish itself by maintaining a cool, old school vibe and a cozy 27-seat theater. Cinema 502 can be rented out for private parties or visited for film screenings even the Broadway and Tower aren’t playing. Its showings primarily consist of independent animation, documentaries, and foreign films.

Utah Film Center

The Utah Film Center is an organization that brings independent movies to different venues throughout Utah including West Jordan, Ogden, Orem, and Moab. You can follow them on social media or simply visit their webpage to keep up with their latest offerings. Over 86% of their programming is free in an effort to bring local communities together through the power of film. Throughout the year they host two film festivals, Q&A sessions with visiting artists and professionals, and school programs to help students learn about storytelling. One of their most widely known events is Damn! These Heels, an LGBTQ-centered film festival that has been running for over 16 years. You won’t find another organization so dedicated to promoting arthouse films and the artistry of cinema anywhere else in Utah.

Still looking for more options? This last one might surprise you:

Mainstream Theaters

With the rising popularity of independent films, you will be pleased to find that you can sometimes catch a showing at non-specialty theaters near you! If you aren’t located near an art house cinema, don’t worry. Many large theaters are catching onto the trend of indie film and dedicating some of their early morning or late night showings to these movies. Be sure to regularly check showtimes near you in order to catch a showing or two without going too far out of your way.

While it might be more exciting to visit a unique specialty theater, you can rest assured that no matter where you buy your tickets, you are supporting the art of independent filmmakers when you go see an art house film. The importance of storytelling and representing the underdog, so to speak, has not been lost to the past. We are no longer relegated to only watching films produced by the mainstream film industry. There are still countless individuals and many organizations dedicated to letting artists speak their voice and promoting their work as widely as possible. On your next night out, lend them a hand and make an effort to find an art house showing near you.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The 9 Most Beautiful Small Towns in Utah

The 9 Most Beautiful Small Towns in Utah blog cover image

Utah’s beauty is often understated. With sprawling National Forests, breathtaking deserts colored red, and glistening lakes, a trip across the state will take your breath away. Big cities may attract large crowds of tourists, pouring over monuments and capitals, but in between these metropolises, there can be hidden gems with unique shops and lovely sights.

With the grand landscape in Utah, many of the small towns are brimming with beautiful natural structures, and that wonderful ‘home sweet home’ feeling waiting to welcome tourists:

quiet town Main Street line with shops and mountains in the background

1. Springdale
Springdale is a tucked-away town that helps welcome hikers to one of Utah’s most popular National Parks. The town is at the foot of Zion’s National Park, among red rock cliffs carved by the Virgin River.

Shops and restaurants make up a large portion of the small town, hoping to appeal to the backpackers and adventures traveling through. Most of the city’s revenue is brought in through tourism, which only creates a more welcoming atmosphere.

rows of purple lavender flowers growing with mountains in the background

2. Mona
Mona is a small town in Utah with a population around 1,500. Nestled at the very base of Mount Nebo, it is a great place for small climbing excursions. Their downtown has many locally-owned businesses to support and the entire town is pristine with bouquets lining street corners.

This town is rather famous for lavender-covered hills that make up violet paths up to Mount Nebo. There are multiple farms that all visitors can enter (most for free) for a relaxing day among beautiful, fragrant lavender.

mountains in the sunset behind a blue lake and fields

3. Torrey
The scenery of Torrey is truly amazing, framed by many natural and individual rock formations lining its silhouette. Most visitors come for the extended trails and sights of Capitol Reef National Park, or when participating in the Tour of Utah bike race. Between these two activities, thousands of visitors are warmly welcomed yearly.

Torrey houses less than 200 people, but their intricate pioneer past is obvious due to the various historic structures still standing throughout the small town.

4. Green River
The name of this small village says it all - a great river runs through the city’s majestic surroundings. Less than 1000 people call this Green River home, so it is truly a place that can take you away from the hustle of regular life. The fruit in abundance is melon, and some say you’ll never taste one as sweet than in Green Rivers rolling hills.

Featured in town is the John Wesley Powell Museum which is filled with boats that voyaged along the river. These river paths can lead through the Gray and Desolation Canyons, and planning an excursion is possible at most times of the year because storms are irregular in the area.

5. Midway
Midway is rich with Swiss immigrant heritage, and it's Midway’s Swiss Days which fills the streets with thousands of guests each year. This August festival showcases local food vendors and live performances.

Scuba diving is also a popular activity for the town, one of the few places this is possible so far from the coast. Standing towards the center of town is the Homestead Caldera, a geothermal hot pool. From the beautiful mountain views to the range of fun activities, Midway is a must see along your way.

cars lining the main street on an overcast day

6. Moab
Moab is one of the most visited small towns in Utah. The most notable sight is the rock formations found in Arches National Park. This small town is a great place to rest for those visiting the nearby Canyonlands National Park.

This is a true southwestern city. Though Moab has an old-timey welcoming feel, the downtown area is renowned for its modern dining and shopping. There are crowds of young people running homemade clothing shops and even specialty coffee shops.

7. Heber City
Right in the heart of Utah’s mountains is the town of Heber City. This is an area of Utah where all activities are centered on the outdoors. From boat tours and paddle boarding on the water to hiking and horseback riding through the surrounding wilderness, lovers of the outdoors will love Heber City.

Heber Valley Historic Railroad Line is a great option for a day excursion; at the top is a clear view of what people call the "Utah Alps." These beautiful views that surround Heber City are easily the splendor those experienced when first settling the Wild West.

8. Garden City
You can find Garden City along the edges of Bear Lake. The winters can be harsh and make the town a little less exciting, but in the warmer months many festivals and events spring up to take advantage of the huge lake. Known as the Caribbean of the Rockies, for the beautiful color of the water, the summer is all about spending time on and around the water, but the surrounding wilderness is something to see.

In August, there is a festival for the raspberry harvest, featuring more raspberry recipes than you’ll know what to do with. The Pickleville Playhouse is known all over Utah for its outstanding community theatre productions. The combination of an exciting day on the water, followed by dinner and a show, leaves nothing to be desired.

Brigham City welcome sign reads: Welcome to Brigham Gateway - World's Greatest Game Bird Refuge

9. Brigham City
Brigham City can give visitors enough activities to comfortably stay in town for weeks. The Wellsville Mountains are great for those looking for a nature escape, but in case the city life is missed, this town lies only 60 miles from the capital of Utah.

There is the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge with many different species and learning information on the local habitat surrounding the river. If time allows, several monuments exist with the center of town, including the Golden Spike National Monument. Peach Days festival is a highlight of the city’s events, a multi-day appreciation of the town's famous peach harvest.

Leave the city life behind by becoming entwined with nature at one of the many beautiful small towns Utah has to offer. Small places like these offer stunning secluded scenery and a secluded comfort the big cities will never be able to compete with.