By: Korral Broschinsky

The Murray Theater at 4961 South State Street was built in 1938 for Tony Duvall and Joseph Lawrence. The Duvall family was in the theater business in Murray for many years, first operating the old Iris Theater at 4973 S. State (built in 1916), and later building the new Iris Theater in 1930 (now Desert Star Playhouse). The Murray Theater opened on October 28, 1938, with a screening of Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” starring Tyrone Power and Ethel Merman. Before the feature, there was a Walt Disney cartoon “Donald Duck’s Hawaiian Holiday” and a newsreel.

The Murray Theater included two flanking storefronts and was the city’s first air-conditioned space in which to view the emerging technology of technicolor movies. During hot summer months in the 1940s, the Iris Theater was closed while the public watched movies comfortable in the much cooler Murray Theater.

The Murray Theater is one of Utah’s best architectural examples of the Streamline Art Moderne style. The architect was Alton B. Paulson of Salt Lake City. The general contractor was the Fors & Johnson Company. In an April 1938 article, The Salt Lake Tribune described the design of the $50,000 construction project: “Ultra-modern architectural lines are to be used with glass brick and stainless steel playing a prominent part” on the facade of the 700-seat theater.

Murray Theatre, Murray, UT.

Murray Theater, Murray, UT

After the grand opening in 1938, the Murray Eagle proclaimed the building “a splendid showplace [built] with the finest materials available, the very latest architectural triumphs, and the most recent achievements of engineers to give the people a theater not only comfortable and beautiful but one that will ensure flawless mechanical performance.”

The first tenants of the theater’s storefronts were an ice cream parlor to the north and an insurance company to the south. The Murray Theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 8, 2001.