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Exploring Utah’s Cinematic Legacy: A Century of Hollywood Magic

Utah, a hidden gem among Hollywood’s real-world backlots, has unfurled its scenic beauty to filmmakers for a remarkable century. This enduring relationship traces its roots back a hundred years to the enchanting era of silent films, where the legendary cowboy star Tom Mix set the stage by filming "The Deadwood Coach" in the stunning landscapes of Southern Utah. Fast forward to today, and Utah’s allure still captivates the industry, with notable figures like the multi-talented Kevin Costner adding new chapters to this storied connection.

127 Hours – James Franco rappeling into Blue John Canyon. Photo courtesy of Melissa Fletcher.

127 Hours – Local Linus Platt rigging over the end of Blue John for the rappel scene. Photo courtesy of Melissa Fletcher.

127 Hours – L to R: Stunt Coordinator; Anthony Dod Mantle (Cinematographer); Danny Boyle (Director); Photo courtesy of Melissa Fletcher.

City Slickers II, 1993 – Locations: Dugout Ranch, Fisher Towers, Onion Creek

Con-Air, 1997 – Locations: Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley & Lake Powell

Thelma & Louise, 1990 – Locations: Arches & Canyonlands National Parks, La Sal, Cisco, Thompson Springs, Valley City, Fossil Point

Galaxy Quest, 1998 – Location: Goblin Valley State Park

Geronimo: An American Legend, 1993 – Locations: Professor Valley, Potash Trail, Potash Plant, Needles Overlook, White Wash Sand Dunes

Westworld: Season 1, 2016 – Locations: Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park – Photo courtesy of HBO

Riders of the Purple Sage, 1995 – Locations: Dugout Ranch, Flat Pass, Mill Creek Canyon, Kane Springs Road, Ten Mile area, Pucker Pass

Wagonmaster, 1949 – Locations: Professor Valley, Colorado River, Spanish Valley

Silent Beginnings: Tom Mix and "The Deadwood Coach"

In the early 1920s, Utah became an unexpected muse for filmmakers seeking the perfect backdrop for their silent masterpieces. Tom Mix, an iconic cowboy star of the time, found himself drawn to the stunning vistas of Southern Utah. It was here, amidst the red rock canyons and sprawling landscapes, that Mix shot "The Deadwood Coach," leaving an indelible mark on Utah’s cinematic history. This venture marked the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the state and the silver screen.

The Everlasting Bond: Utah and Hollywood Today

As the decades unfolded, Utah’s allure only intensified. Hollywood recognized the state as a versatile canvas capable of portraying a myriad of settings, from rugged deserts to lush mountainous terrains. This enduring appeal has not waned but evolved, with modern-day filmmakers continuing to be enchanted by Utah’s diverse and picturesque locales.

Enter Kevin Costner, a true multi-hyphenate in the world of entertainment. His recent projects in Utah exemplify the continued collaboration between the state and Hollywood’s finest. Costner’s ventures not only showcase the state’s breathtaking landscapes but also contribute to the narrative of a century-long partnership between Utah and the film industry.

Utah’s Cinematic Canvas: A Century Unveiled

As we celebrate a hundred years of Utah’s cinematic legacy, it’s evident that the state has become more than just a backdrop. It’s a character in itself, telling stories of the past, present, and future. Utah stands as a testament to the enduring bond between nature’s wonders and the magic of the silver screen. As we marvel at a century of cinematic history, one cannot help but be captivated by the timeless landscapes that have graced the frames of countless films. Utah’s journey with Hollywood is a story of collaboration, inspiration, and the everlasting magic of the movies.

Utah Film Commission Celebrates 100 Year Of Utah Film & Television

The Utah Film Commission will celebrate film milestones with a year of exhibits, events, and film screenings. Many cities and counties around the state share a part of early filmmaking history and during this Anniversary year, they will celebrate all of the people, locations, and productions that have made Utah. America’s Film Set.

See ways to get involved at film.utah.gov/100years/.

Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission Celebrates 75 Years of Filming in Moab

In 1949, locals worked together to promote the Moab area to film companies. According to Bega Metzner, the Moab to Monument Valley film commissioner, ranchers and other businessmen established a film committee – now the world’s longest operating film commission – to facilitate John Ford’s productions. Seventy-five years on, the locale most recently served as the anchor location for Kevin Costner’s post-Civil War opus on the settlement of the American west, "Horizon: An American Saga," for 87 shoot days.

"There’s barely any fenced-in land: we benefit from wide open spaces," says Metzner. There are also no paparazzi. "People respect filmmakers’ privacy to work," Metzner observes.

Learn more about filming in the the Moab area at filmmoab.com.

Bega Metzner and Ben Fedregill
Bega Metzner (Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission Director) and Ben Fredregill (Grand County Economic Development Director) at the opening of the Utah Film Exhibition at the State Capitol.

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