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Big-screen theater: new film dramatizes joy, struggles of pioneers

A new 500-seat, large-screen theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building is among a "smorgasbord of marvelous opportunities" for visitors to Salt Lake City to learn more about the Church, said Elder L. Aldin Porter of the Presidency of the Seventy.

On the theater's 31-by-62-foot screen will be shown the new Church film "Legacy," which dramatizes the joy and struggles of the early saints in their efforts to establish Zion. This 70-millimeter, 53-minute film will be first shown to the public July 3, 6-7 during the public open house of the building, formerly the Hotel Utah. After the open house of the renovated building, the film will be shown continuously to visitors, except on Sundays. (See June 19 Church News for article on the "Legacy" film.)Elder Porter, executive director of the Missionary Department, explained that seeing "Legacy" in the theater is more than a historical review of the Church.

"We have to recognize that following the 27th of June the theater will be dedicated along with the building, and that's unique for a theater," he said. "We're going to have a theater that's dedicated for specific purposes, not just to see a movie or to entertain people. We hope people leave there in deep contemplation, with a feeling of respect for these pioneers and for their great sacrifices."

Elder Porter related that the film will be shown at set times throughout each day, and that the tickets--free of charge--can be obtained at the Church Office Building, at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and in the North and South Visitors centers on Temple Square.

He emphasized that the tickets, which show the day and time of the viewing, are only to ensure that no more than 500 people are admitted at a time.

People will find out about the theater and its featuree film in several ways, said Sherman M. Crump, managing director of the Missionary Department. He said that full-time missionaries on Temple Square will tell visitors about the film at the conclusion of tours. In addition, he said, a Church brochure about local LDS sites will be rewritten to include information on the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

"We hope word gets around Temple Square and that people talk about the theater and the film," Elder Porter added.

And there should be plenty to talk about, considering the construction and layout of the theater. Michael Enfield, project manager of temples and special projects for the Church, said the 15-tier theater was once the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel. The ballroom, located on the north end of the building, could be partitioned off to make one large room in the middle and two small rooms on each side. The large room is now the theater and the two side rooms are its west and east lobbies.

Film-goers, from Temple Square in particular, will enter the west side of the building from Main Street and from there will ascend stairs to the west lobby of the theater. They will enter the theater from the west lobby of the theater. They will enter the theater from the west lobby and exit into the east lobby. Hanging in both of these lobbies are the original crystal chandeliers that once hung in the hotel's Lafayette Ballroom, which is now a chapel. On the walls of the lobbies are new Carpathian elm burl wood panels, like those that once hung in the west end of the ballroom. Surrounding the panels is wall fabric with a pattern that would have been in style in 1911, when the building was first built, Brother Enfield said.

While waiting in the west lobby, visitors will be greeted by a full-time missionary from Temple Square, and can view a 9 1/2-by-6 1/2-foot painting of the Savior, entitled "He is risen," by LDS artist Keith Eddington. Printed on the wall above the painting are the words from D&C 19:16: "Behold, I have suffered these things for all."

Visitors will be able to see other exhibits on the Savior, the Book of Mormon and families is a south theater lobby, which is connected to both the west and east lobbies.

Once inside the theater, film-goers will be seated on burgundy-colored, cushioned theater seats. The ceiling of the theater is the original ceiling of the Grand Ballroom, except the lighting has been changed and acoustic panels have been added. After introducing the film, a missionary will go to a control box on either side of the theater and start the fully-automated film system. Brother Enfield explained that the projection system will simultaneously rewind the film as it is played.

Approximately 20 speakers surround the theater, providing stereo Surround Sound. "Sub-woofers" boost low-frequency sounds. The Surround-Sound system projects so many realistic sounds that "when the bullets fly [in a scene in the film], you want to duck," Brother Enfield explained with a smile.

After watching "Legacy," the viewers will leave the theater and go to other public areas of the building, or they can exit the building from the doors leading to the plaza adjacent to the Church Office Building or to the plaza on the west side of the Church Administration Building.

Elder Porter expressed the hope "that members of the Church will see this whole area as a place to bring non-members where they can feel something different than they are used to feeling."

He added that the film "Legacy" will be a high point of a visit to Church sites in downtown Salt Lake City.

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