ST. GEORGE — Southern Utah’s rich film history caught the eye of Hollywood 100 years ago. Now Cedar City is planning a celebration on Saturday, Feb. 3, from 6-8 p.m. at the Historic Cedars Hotel.

The crew of the film Deadwood Coach traveled from Hollywood via train to Cedar City, Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah Special Collections, St. George News

“When Hollywood Came to Town” celebrates Cedar City as the birthplace of Utah filmmaking. The Hollywood premier-like celebration features special guests from the Utah Film Commission, the Southern Utah University Student Film Project and short film screenings from the recent 48-hour Film Shoot-Out.

In 1923, Chauncey and Gronway Parry were gazing out their office windows at the historic Cedars Hotel at the movie theater across the street. Cedar City and Brian Head Tourism Bureau Executive Director Maria Twitchell told St. George News the brothers decided they could approach Hollywood producers to come to Cedar City via rail transportation. The brothers promoted the scenic areas as backdrops for major motion pictures that were only filmed on sets.

“The brothers were looking at the fact that all these people were coming in on the railroad to see the national parks,” Twitchell said. “And they’re like, we need to capitalize on this. And so they got their heads together and started going to Hollywood and recruiting the film studios.”

The Parry Brothers’ efforts paid off in 1924, with the highly acclaimed actor/producer Tom Mix coming to produce the first film in Utah. Twitchell said his silent Western “The Deadwood Coach” ushered in the state’s new moviemaking era.

Tom Mix was the first movie star cowboy, seen here with his trusty Wonder Horse Tony. He came to Cedar City in 1924 to film “Deadwood,” the first movie shot in Southern Utah. It was filmed at Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon | Photo courtesy Wikipedia, St. George News

Utah has been the setting for thousands of feature motion pictures, television programs, documentaries and commercials. Twitchell adds that many assume Kane County or Monument Valley in San Juan County started the film industry in Utah, but they came after Cedar City’s debut.

“Cedar City proudly declares itself the first place of Utah motion picture filmmaking, thanks to the efforts of early residents Chauncey and Gronway Perry in 1923,” Twitchell said.

According to the Cedar City/Iron County Film Commission website, Cedar City is home to the international Red Rock Film Festival, established in 2006. The town also features Southern Utah University’s newly constructed film studio with a soundstage and a theater actor training program.

Past films produced in the Cedar City area include “My Friend Flicka,” “Proud Rebel,” “Union Pacific,” “How the West Was Won” TV series, “Paranormal Kids,” “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” “Hotel Impossible,” “American Pickers” and the movie “Where We Began.”

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