By: Clark Bullen

May is National Historic Preservation Month–and ironically–our most iconic historic Murray landmark is now at risk of being defunded by Murray City with half of the renovation still to do. Our friend Clark Bullen detailed the situation in the following social media post. Please read it and take action by contacting the city council and mayor. Even if you don’t live in Murray, this theater has impact and relevance to people from all over Utah. We are trying to see it live again and continue to be a historic gem and entertainment venue right in the heart of the valley. Thank you all for caring and for your support of our historic resources.


Murray Theater on State Street. Courtesy Salt Lake County Archives.

Funding for the theater was changed to contingent. Meaning it is on the chopping block. The council needs to know how much you care. They are meeting at 3:30p Wed to consider it. Please contact them asap, contact info below. Tell your neighbors to spread the word! Time is short.

Why should we save The Murray Theater? Why now? It will be the catalyst to revitalize downtown. It will set the precedent that Murray is a destination, a hub in the heart of the valley that attracts revenue. It will encourage beautiful, unique design downtown.

SL County has granted us 3.5M for our renovation. We had to withdraw this request due to COVID. The County graciously agreed to recommit the 3.5M. If we back out again, we may burn this bridge. We have also been courting large donors through a firm that specializes in funding projects like ours. If we show a lack of commitment we would likely

exhaust this possibility for the foreseeable future. A propensity for abandonment is not a good look. What opportunities might we lose due to reputation? We have also spent a significant amount already. What a waste of citizen money to back out now. If we weren’t fully committed, why did we buy it? Why did we petition the county for money twice? Why did we hire a firm to pursue donors? Why did we start construction before covid? Why did we resume construction in 2022? Nearly all city leaders have been 100% on board. This was supposed to be a done deal. I was shocked.


Interior of the Murray Theater 1938. Courtesy Utah State Historical Society.

The city already has money set aside from before. The mayor’s budget proposed we reserve 5M more. The firm is looking to raise up to 5M through donors. Whatever is raised the city will get to keep. I am confident they will secure large donations. They raised the funds for the Eccles theater in SLC. This has always been the plan. No sense in flinching. The serendipity is that the city received 5M in ARPA. The city had planned to put that in a rainy-day fund. Well, tut tut, it looks like rain. Seems meant to be. This renovation would be done if not for Covid. That is the whole point of ARPA finding.

Studies show the arts are an economic driver. This theater will be a revenue-generating asset. Someone at the city thought maybe we should cut this funding for the arts. Saw it as superfluous. By this logic, we could save money by cutting parks and libraries, the senior center, and the rec center. Maybe it would save the city time and money, but who would want to live here? Where do we draw the line?

The doubt cast was whether the citizens care.

Murray’s master plan delineates they do. It was developed with extensive public input. The Master Plan clearly shows the citizen’s will.

I included relevant excerpts from Murray Journal articles below. There is no doubt. Some of the words used to describe our historic district are: social heart of the city, distinct identity, character, iconic, community anchor, historic core. This should settle the case of what citizens want. We don’t have time to thoroughly survey the citizens before these budget decisions are finalized but luckily we already did. Murray has a vision and plan. Let’s follow it.

Murray Theatre, Murray, UT.

Theater opening on Friday, October 28, 1938 screening Irving Berlin's "Alexander Ragtime Band" and a Donald Duck cartoon, "Hawaiian Holiday," plus a newsreel. Courtesy Murray City Museum.

Please email the city council reps today. (See below)

Individually sent emails are much better if you can. Please tell your neighbors to email our council reps. Tag your neighbors, email them, knock on their door. Text them. Call them. Talk to them in person.

We don’t have time to organize a city awareness effort except through you. Murray has around 50k citizens, 25k adults. not everyone is on FB. Please spread the word. If we don’t, we could lose the theater for good. If we don’t preserve the theater what will we preserve? We would also encourage you to implore our mayor. He is the keeper of the vision and plan for Murray. The council listens to and respects him. We need an advocate on the inside to fight for it. He has expressed many times his love for the theater. He did put it in the budget. Ask him to get it over the finish line.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration that this will determine the direction and future of Murray. Tell us why you love the theater or why it should be saved. Tell us the direction you want Murray to go? What will happen if we lose the theater?

City and Council Member Contact Information

Email them all as this is a whole city issue. You can view the Council District Map here.

Be sure to CC the following individuals in your communication:

Articles about the Murray Theater

In the meantime, he is most excited about the remodel of the Murray Theater. “We got the 3.6 million back from the county. We have about 2 million, and then possible legislature funding. I feel really good about it,” he said.

Murray Journal Article, Mayor Hales Quote

There were also other efforts that are underway to make the City even better! The old Murray Theater, with the help of Salt Lake County and the state legislature, is being restored and renovated.

State of the City Address March 2022, Excerpt

Further Reading: