2024: 100 Years of Utah Film and Television


Although audiences around the world may know Utah’s landscapes from films like Thelma & Louise, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or even High School Musical, Utah’s rich filmmaking history began long before those films hit the big screen. Once known as “Little Hollywood,” Utah’s unique landscapes have made the state a popular backdrop for filmmakers since two 1924 silent films, The Deadwood Coach, shot on location in Zion National Park, Cedar City, and the newly formed Bryce Canyon National Monument; and The Covered Wagon, shot in Northern Utah. These movies were the first of Hollywood’s star-studded Westerns to shoot in state. Over the years, Utah has slipped into countless roles, sometimes as different states or even different planets.

“I’ve driven across the country a half dozen times. But my heart always used to skip a beat when we hit Utah. [The] state, north to south, is so distinct, and so distinctly American.”
—  Jonathan Nolan, Director, Westworld



2024 will be 100 years since the first movies filmed in Utah premiered and also the 50th anniversary of the Utah Film Commission, formed in 1974. We will celebrate these milestones with a year of exhibits, events, and film screenings. Many cities and counties around the state share a part of our early filmmaking history and during this Anniversary year — we will celebrate all of the people, locations, and productions that have made Utah. America’s Film Set.


Director/Actor Tom Mix in 'The Deadwood Coach' (1924) filmed in and around Cedar City, Kanab and Zion National Park
Director John Ford and Actor Tim Holt on the set of 'Stagecoach' (1939) filmed in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park


10 Year Impact

Film production creates jobs in the creative sector while supporting local businesses and encouraging tourism across the state. Utah’s Motion Picture Incentive Program has had a profound impact on the state, both economically and culturally.

Total Utah Spend

$604 Million

Total Rural Utah Spend

$268 Million

Production Days


Jobs Created


Total Incentive Projects


Film Tourism

$6 Billion

How We Help

We provide support for multiple production types including motion pictures, television, and commercials. From student to studio productions, the Utah Film Commission can assist you when filming in the state.

'Forever is Now' (2020)

Our History

Since the early 1930s, Utah has been capturing the imagination of filmmakers and storytellers and today is no exception. With thousands of productions created in-state, Utah has an undeniably deep and lasting commitment to the entertainment industry. It includes iconic films such as ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’, ‘Thelma & Louise’, ‘Easy Rider’, and ‘Forrest Gump’.

1930s - 1960s

1970s - 1980s



2010s - 2020s

The American West

In 1935, John Ford was looking to film a western on location – something that wasn’t really done at that time. He fell in love with photos of Monument Valley in Southern Utah and came out to shoot Stagecoach, the first of six classic westerns that paved the way for an entire era of filmmaking – My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers, and Cheyenne Autumn.

Between 1930s – 1970 hundreds of westerns were made in Southern Utah – from Cedar City to Moab and Monument Valley – that captured the imagination of the American West and established Kanab, UT as “Little Hollywood”.

Robert Redford & Sundance

Robert Redford was already living in Provo Canyon by 1968. He was fresh from his role in Barefoot in the Park. He already knew and loved Utah and convinced director, George Roy Hill (who had been looking at New Mexico) to come and look at the St. George area for the new film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This launched two things that have become synonymous for Utah – Sundance Resort and Sundance Film Festival.


In 1974 the Utah Film Commission was established to support the growing film industry.

TV Movies & Series

Looking for new places to film, television and movie studios alike flocked to utilize Utah’s unique locations and film-friendly environment. During the 1990’s Utah generated $200 Million in economic activity in production across the state from TV movies and series like Touched by an Angel and Everwood. Iconic films like Footloose, Thelma & Louise, The Sandlot and Forrest Gump also shot during this time.

Utah's Growing Industry

Looking to address the issue of the film productions moving out of state because of incentives offered, Utah began to offer a small incentive program in 2005, which eventually led to the ongoing Motion Picture Incentive Program we have today, which was set up in 2011 by the Utah State Legislature. 


The Disney Channel discovered Utah’s “anytown USA” look and proceeded to shoot 27 movies in the state, including the much-loved High School Musicals, which made Salt Lake City’s East High the movie landmark it is today.


The rise of the Sundance Film Festival during this time meant that Utah became known not only as a place to make films but a place to show them. Thousands of film lovers come to Park City, UT every year to see the latest films and indie filmmakers have continued to seek out new places to shoot in Utah.

The Last Decade

The last 20 years have seen major changes in the entertainment landscape with independent movies and streaming channels creating more and more content, which has allowed Utah to continue its growth as a film industry hub. In the last five years, over half of the film permits issued occurred in rural counties, demonstrating the growing interest in the diverse locations off the Wasatch Front.


A recent amendment to Utah’s Motion Picture Incentive Program adds additional tax credits available for productions that shoot at least 75% of their production days in a rural county. This funding enables the state’s film industry to successfully retain interest from independent film production, many of whom are repeat customers or local filmmakers, while simultaneously working to attract higher impact studio productions to rural parts of the state.


Partner Opportunities

The Utah Film Commission partners with organizations that further our goals in film production, workforce and talent development.

Learn More
Welcome to Utah Reception at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Our Team

Virginia Pearce
Derek Mellus
Production Manager
Melissa Jackson
Sr. Manager of Operations and Workforce Development
Christina Martin
Marketing and Communications Manager
Carli Mahas
Production Coordinator
Rylie Bolen
Location Scout Intern
Evadne Hendrix
Marketing & Communications Intern

Utah Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity & the Office of Tourism & Film

Formed in 1974, the Utah Film Commission is part of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Office of Tourism. Our office is also a member of the Association of Film Commissioners International.