When thinking about film in Park City, most people imagine the Sundance Film Festival, or perhaps the Egyptian Theater, but Park City has a history of being a filming location for several films. One of those films is a made-for-TV adaption of H.G. Wells’ 1895 novella, The Time Machine.
On May 11, 1978, the Park Record reported that Sunn Classic Pictures “will begin filming H.G. Wells’ ‘Time Machine’ Monday, and part of the movie will be shot on Main Street in Park City.”
The novella is a story that plays with time travel, including arrival in an 1871 California Gold Rush town, for which the crew transformed Park City into the shooting location. The Park Record continued, noting “parts of Main Street will be converted to an old western town May 30 and 31…. Areas expected to undergo the change include from the Claimjumper to the Chamber of Commerce, the front of Rosie’s Delicatessen, Western Woodlands to the Park Record office, and the inside of the Mother Lode.” Old City Hall, the Park City Museum’s home, is featured prominently in several shots.
The Park Record noted that sidewalks would be covered by platforms to make boardwalks, windows and storefronts would be “dressed” to give a western aesthetic, and the interior of the Mother Lode would be converted into an old saloon. The crew would also film at the Silver King Mine for futuristic scenes after more time traveling.
Not only was a production crew present with workers and actors, but Parkites were expected to join in as extras and such. Sam Baldoni, assistant to Sunn Classic Pictures VP George Conway (the film’s producer), told the Park Record they “would like very much to use as many locals as we can.” A fundraiser, the Park City Sports-A-Rama, was even giving away “1 walk-on part” in the film as a prize for their raffle.
Sunn Classic Pictures was based in Park City from its founding in 1971 until shutting down in 1987 when its parent company was bought. They utilized Main Street on several productions, and shot around town for the popular documentary-style feature film and television program, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, along with filming productions throughout Summit and Wasatch Counties. Sunn Classsic had a string of deals with NBC to air their productions, including a “Classic Illustrated” series of book adaptations that encompassed The Time Machine.
The Time Machine premiered on NBC at 7 p.m. local time on November 5, 1978. Not only could Parkites view the movie in their homes, but one Old Town bar was screening the film as well.
End Run, located in an historic home at 136 Heber Avenue, where the Gateway Center sits today, advertised themselves as a “video bar” with multiple large-screen TVs with cable and video players. They could screen live sports and programs, along with movies on VHS tapes (which had arrived in the U.S. in 1977, just the year prior). For us now, it sounds like no big deal to have big screen TVs playing sports or to play a movie for bar patrons, but the End Run was truly a novelty in 1978, especially in a small town like Park City.
Learn more about film and theaters in Park City in the Park City Museum’s exhibits or Hal Compton Research Library.