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Wharton: Kaysville Theatre preserves traditions

Published January 28, 2013 2:00 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kaysville • In an era of mostly suburban megaplex movie theaters, loyal patrons of the family-owned Kaysville Theatre expect a different experience.

Most appreciate the prices at the second-run movie house. Matinees cost $2 with evening shows $3. The concession stand sells only popcorn, drinks and candy with prices set at $1, $2 and $3. For $3, you can get your popcorn bag refilled in the middle of the show.

Many love an ancient trailer showing one boy trying to clean up after himself and the other spreading all sorts of garbage around his seat. When one of the boys steps on a big wad of gum spit on the floor, the tradition is that most of those attending the movie exclaim "ewwwww!"

Another thing is the habit of "getting mugged," which is actually a good thing here. The theater sells a refillable mug with its logo on it for $4 and more than one patron at a recent matinee could be seen holding a handful of the plastic drink containers ready to refill again for $2. Lisa Call, part of the family that has operated the theater since the late 1980s, said the theater sells about 10,000 mugs a year.

I liked the bits of trivia that kept appearing on the screen or was posted on walls. For example, I learned the theater was originally called the Crestview, will run the occasional "soft" R-rated movie but prefers more family-oriented fare and is closed on Sundays. There were references to other historic Davis County movie houses.

Mary Call is the matriarch of the family-run business. Her husband Bill, whose grandfather Vosco once operated the Capitol Theater in Brigham City, passed away a little more than a year ago. Daughter-in-law Lisa is the general manager and also operates a popcorn shop on Main Street with 82 different flavors. Marcy, another daughter-in-law, books the movies. Mostly, though, family members young and old are part of the theater tradition. She calls it a "serious family business."

"When was the last time Mr. Carmike poured you a drink," said Lisa, referring to the name of a big movie theater chain.

"Every child and grandchild works here," said Mary. "Two grandchildren are married and their wives work here…We say we are born with the ability to pour a drink. This is a coveted place to work. With have adult supervision, we don't allow friends to hang out and everyone gets Sundays off. We are flexible, so workers can trade shifts."

Mary said she and Bill courted in a projection room where he used to work. They could not leave the booth because they had to keep the old carbon arcs going and change the reels every 20 minutes. These days, films are spliced together in one reel and winds into a big platter.

But film, too, is going by the wayside. Lisa said that by the end of 2013, no film will be available as movie makers have gone almost totally digital. The Calls are having to invest in new digital equipment. The biggest stress with that, other than the cost, is trying to figure out if they can somehow keep the traditional trailer with the kid and the gum.

I asked what the most popular movie the theater had run and the Calls' answer shocked me. They named a flick called "Enchanted April," a 1991 English flick starring Alfred Molina and Joan Plowright. I'd never heard of it.

"We called it Eternal April," said Lisa. "We ran it for almost three months."

"People came from Sandy and Morgan and everywhere," added Mary. "We were the only ones playing 'Enchanted April.'"

These days the three theaters — the two small ones seat 134 while the largest seats 274 — often sell out, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. In fact, there is a waiting area near the entrance complete with benches. Kids roam the foyer, the floor littered with spilled popcorn. The rest rooms are spotlessly clean.

I enjoyed a rare Saturday afternoon matinee, "Here Comes the Boom," with a bag of freshly popped hot popcorn and the warm feeling that this is what a movie experience should be like.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton