From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Utah’s scenery and locales figure prominently in hundreds of movies. According to Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission, the comment he hears most is, “Really?” when telling someone that a familiar film is wholly or partly filmed in Utah.
The diverse landscapes and panoramas stand in for the old west, alien planets and almost any urban setting. For example, the Bonneville Salt Flats in The World’s Fastest Indian, Arches National Park in Hulk, Goblin Valley State Park in Galaxy Quest, Rose Park and Ogden in Sandlot, Snowbird in Better Off Dead, and Utah Valley in Footloose. These are just a few of the Utah places you can see watching these movies.
The Utah Film Commission was created to promote and market the state to filmmakers. Today it still promotes the state but also offers incentives and services to filmmakers. The commission has a location library where filmmakers can view thousands of images across the state. There are also experienced film crews and equipment available in the state so that someone coming to Utah to film can travel light–everything they need is already here.
“Diversity in topography, proximity to Los Angeles and incentives are what draw film crews to Utah,” Moore says. “There is a depth of crews and talent in Utah along with a variety of equipment.”
As part of the Utah Department of Tourism, the Film Commission uses the films to promote the state to visitors. It offers a tourist brochure of films and their locations. Finding images in person that are seen on film is an experience that some tourists plan their trips around.
Two of the most sought-after areas for filming are Moab and Kanab. Both towns have film museums dedicated to locally made films. John Ford discovered the red rock beauty of Moab in the 40s, shooting Stagecoach and other Westerns there. The tradition continues with many locals having Johnny Depp sightings while The Lone Ranger was shot on location.
Moab’s Red Cliffs Lodge houses the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage. The lodge and museum are located on the Red Cliffs Ranch, a working ranch since the late 1800s. The ranch is a cattle ranch that has served as a locale for many Western movies. The museum houses displays of early cowboy ranching and local movie memorabilia. Admission to the museum is free and Red Cliffs Lodge is located at Mile Post 14, Highway 128.
Tom Forsythe in Kanab oversees the town’s Little Hollywood Movie Museum. He thinks it is the diverse landscapes that draws Hollywood to Utah. Kanab in turn, returns the favor by honoring some of the stars who have visited Kanab over the years. Besides the museum, Kanab has enshrined some of the actors who filmed movies in the area. A stroll down the sidewalks leads to plaques for Ronald Reagan, Tom Mix, and the entire cast of Gunsmoke. The museum is at 297 West Center Street and admission is free.