SALT LAKE CITY — Guests filtered in the front doors Thursday evening, below the marquis sign that read, "WELCOME BACK TO THE MOVIES." A trio of costumed characters stood at the top of the stairs inside the front door, ready to greet moviegoers.
"Hello!" they sang out. Two characters stood on stilts, with a third offering up goodies like hand sanitizer and buttons.
"Thank you!" each guest chirped, before venturing into the heart of the theater lobby.
It's been 586 days since bags of popcorn lined the concessions counter, and a movie named filled the marquis above the auditorium doors.
The Salt Lake Film Society wanted to make it special, offering a showing of the new Warner Bros. Dune, as part offering the entire Dune cinematic collection starting this weekend.
"It is a momentous day!" exclaimed Kurt Bestor, a musician and board member of the Salt Lake Film Society.
The Broadway, which focuses on independent film showings, has been shuttered since the very start of the pandemic.
Bestor said people have missed the art world.
"This is where we tell people's stories. This isn't just a place to have popcorn and watch a movie," he explained. "This is where we tell stories that need to be told."
Those stories went digital during Covid-19. What started as a six-week shut-down for the downtown Salt Lake City theater, turned into 19 months.
Salt Lake Film Society CEO and President Tori Baker explained that they took on a digital project during that time, which expanded to include dozens of other art house cinemas.
"It's called @home arts," Baker said. "It's our digital screen project, which allowed people to continue to see independent film at their art house not just on a streaming station or something, but to support their art house."
That ended up taking up a lot of the society's time, and Baker described how they also organized five cultural tours and 20 educational panel discussions, including four at Sundance.
On top of that, they undertook renovations at both Broadway and Tower Theater at 9th and 9th.
Supply chain issues have kept the Tower closed, Baker said. They were hoping to get those doors back open, but the society is still doing work on that building.
However, the Broadway is finally ready for its big fall premiere, as the Salt Lake Film Society works to bring independent film back to Salt Lake City-- in person.
"We're really excited to have everybody back. It's been a long haul," Baker said.
Tickets are now paperless and are sold online in advance.