For over a decade Kennecott Neighborhood Theater was a top-rated television program that brought families together once a week to enjoy movies suitable for the whole family. Kennecott used it commercial airtime to inform the viewing community on how Kennecott operated, what its goals were, who its employees were and what jobs they performed, and about the process of mining ore, from excavation in the pit to processing at the mills. This open, sharing of information brought the viewing community together, while not always in agreement, at least in understanding.
Premiere night for Kennecott Neighborhood Theater occurred on July 6, 1956, on KUTV Channel 2. The theater promised to deliver every Friday night at 9 pm “top-quality, full-length feature pictures with Hollywood’s greatest stars.” The premiere movie was The Velvet Touch with Rosalind Russell (Daily Herald [DH] 6 July 1956:12).
Kennecott’s intent was to televise movies appropriate for all members of the family and was successful at this for many years (Deseret News (DN) 9 September 1972:27; Pearson 1966). Ten years after its inception, Kennecott Neighborhood Theater had shown 520 family films and was rated No. 1 by Utah viewers, beating out Bonanza which was Number 1 nationally (Pearson 1966).
The program was governed by a committee of ten. This committee reviewed each movie offered by KUTV to determine whether it was suitable for family viewing. Not all movies passed the screening process. For example, Duel in the Sun was a movie rejected by the committee (Pearson 1966). This is a 1946 psychological western that at the time was nicknamed Lust in the Dust. The film is full of violence, racism, and sexuality (Calvillo 2017; Wikipedia 2022), subjects not considered suitable for family viewing.
Over time, family films became harder to find and the theater was forced to replay movies shown in the past. For example, The Velvet Touch was shown thirteen times (DN 9 September 1972:27). In June of 1971, Kennecott withdrew its sponsorship of the program (DN 9 September 1972:27; Salt Lake Tribune [SLT] 10 June 1971:57), but KUTV continued airing the program under the new name of Neighborhood Theater until September 10, 1972, when the program was discontinued. The last movie shown was The Quiller Memorandum (DN 9 September 1972:27).
An unusual aspect of Kennecott Neighborhood Theater was that it was limited to three commercials per program. Each of the commercial breaks were devoted to informing the community as to how Kennecott operated or telling the stories of Kennecott employees (Pearson 1966). On occasion, Kennecott would donate their commercial time slots to public service announcements. For example, in May 1962, in an effort to stimulate Utah’s tourism industry, Kennecott began donating one commercial slot per week highlighting Utah’s scenic beauty. First up on the schedule was Zion National Park (Iron County Record [ICR] 10 May 1962:11). Another time Kennecott paid to produce three commercials for the Utah Ski Patrol and allowed them the use of their three commercial slots during one program (DN 5 February 1971:44).
A unique event occurred on Sunday, April 17, 1966, when Kennecott Neighborhood Theater aired the movie Battle at Apache Pass without any commercial breaks. Instead of the standard commercial breaks, Kennecott followed the movie with a 28-minute presentation titled Copper. This short program depicted Kennecott operations as viewed through the eyes of visitors, mostly children (Pearson 1966).
Kennecott Neighborhood Theater operated for nearly 15 years. The program had a continuous run from July 6, 1956, to June 1971 with the only interruption in programming occurring during the 1967 strike that lasted eight months (Salt Lake Tribune [SLT] 10 June 1971:57).