“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, our own Allison Loring highlights one of the main Sundance Film Festival venues in anticipation of her return to Park City this week. Her comments are those quoted. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.
Location: 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, Utah.
Opened: January 1998, with its official name of The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
No. of screens: 1
Current first-run titles: None.
Repertory programming: None, except in the case that Sundance would screen a classic film here.
Special Events: For most of the year, the Eccles Center is shared by the Park City School District, which hosts the theater at the Park City High School, and is also one of two venues of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation, which presents concerts and other live events (this weekend featured a one-woman show by Anna Deavere Smith). Then, of course, every January brings the Sundance Film Festival, which uses the Eccles for its biggest premieres and other popular screenings, as this is the fest’s largest auditorium in Park City.
Why I worship here: “Eccles is simply one of the nicest theaters utilized during Sundance, and you know you are going to have a good theater going experience when you find yourself attending a screening there. (It is essentially equivalent to knowing you will be getting to spend a few hours in first class before having to go back to coach.) Eccles is also one of the biggest theaters at Sundance with a screen large enough to make you feel like you are truly in the film. And the Eccles experience is not limited to theater alone. The ‘corral’ — the tent you line up in while waiting to get into the theater and stay out of the snow — is stocked with snacks and beverages, things that are essentially gold to famished festival goers. Even though Eccles mainly features public screenings and not just P&I (press and industry), it is the one venue where I always seem to run into the friends and colleagues I may not have seen yet during the festival, giving it a soft spot in my heart as it always reminds me of the excitement of meeting people for the first time and seeing old friends.”
Recent screening of note: “One distinct memory I have of Eccles is watching a Sundance film I was less than a fan of (sorry, I Melt With You) at a very early hour, on a very few hours of sleep. Despite my exhaustion (and Eccles’s policy of not letting you bring your coffee into the auditorium) that theater sucked me right into the film — whether I wanted it to or not. One thing I can say for I Melt With You is it had a booming soundtrack, and the sound system in Eccles delivered it in perfect surround, furthering that feeling of truly being in the film. 3D, IMAX, and 48fps can try and make the filmgoing experience more immersive, but Eccles is the one venue where I always feel like that goal is truly achieved. And I do not need to wear uncomfortable plastic glasses to get it.”
Devotion to the concessions: “Eccles does offer a small concession stand in the lobby full of pastries and espresso drinks, but they limit you to the lobby to consume them. So be prepared to opt for an espresso shot rather than a full drink when you only have a minute to spare before a screening begins. But to their credit, they do know how to make a damn good espresso shot.”
Last word: “Eccles screens some of Sundance’s biggest premieres. And it should, seeing as Eccles gives off the grand feel of a premiere house. And, seeing as premieres are usually hot tickets, it helps to have them take place in a theater that can accommodate so many seats, lessening the chance of getting shut out due to capacity. Eccles also sticks to only public screenings, which means it is a theater you can count on watching a film with an audience and not just fellow critics (which can have its benefits and downfalls). Overall, Eccles is a beautiful theater and it is no question why they keep the concessions to the lobby – they want to keep it that way. You never have to worry about sticky floors or tripping over someone’s garbage here, and when it comes to selecting a seat, there really is not a bad one in the house.”