Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Lights! Camera! Davis!

Jan 18, 2024 09:16AM ● By Braden Nelsen
Still from ‘The Covered Wagon,’ a 1924 movie filmed right here in Davis County. Courtesy photo

Still from ‘The Covered Wagon,’ a 1924 movie filmed right here in Davis County. Courtesy photo

DAVIS COUNTY—Utah is a more popular spot for filming movies than many people think. That being said, when people think of movies filmed in Utah, most minds go directly to Southern Utah or the Salt Flats. Davis County, however, has had its fair share of movies filmed right here, and there will most assuredly be more.

There are many outstanding places in the state to film, but Davis County has the distinction of being the backdrop for the first movie filmed in the state, which was part of a recent celebration of 100 years of film, hosted by the Utah Film Commission. 1924’s “The Covered Wagon,” filmed on Antelope Island, holds the distinction of being the first feature film made in Utah, and while that may well have been the first, it certainly wasn’t the last. 

A behind-the-scenes glimpse of the first motion picture in Utah, put together by the Utah Film Commission. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle.

 “Covered Wagon,” with its impressive use of the buffalo herd on the island set the standard and was one of the first big-budget feature films to show Hollywood that there were places outside California they could use to film. Soon, big-name directors would turn to the Beehive State before they went anywhere else, and even though John Ford or Robert Redford may have preferred the red rock of southern Utah, the scenery in Davis County has provided the backdrop for more than a few big-budget features as well which will definitely ring a bell to fans of both the horror and holiday genres. 

One of the most recognizable villains of the slasher/horror genre, Michael Myers, made at least two appearances in Davis County in both “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” as well as “Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers.” While probably the most recognizable, the “Halloween” franchise wasn’t the only one of the genre to set up shop in Davis.

2015’s “Nightlite”, distributed by media giant, Lionsgate Films, while poorly received, was filmed on location in and around Layton, in Davis. Utilizing the horror tropes of “found footage,” the film, at the very least, brought some darkness and horror to this corner of Utah. It’s not all doom and gloom in Davis, however: some classic Hallmark Christmas movies, as well as some footage from Disney themselves were grabbed right here in Davis.

Two Disney Channel Original Movies, “Going to the Mat” and “The Luck of the Irish” both used locations in Davis, namely Northridge High School, and Lagoon, as the setting for each film. When the snow starts falling, however, Hallmark hasn’t been shy to use Davis as a backdrop for more than one of their holiday classics. 

Both “Christmas Land” and “Christmas Wonderland” used Davis County locations to set the holiday scene. But why film in Davis? When there are facilities built in and around Hollywood for that purpose, why do some companies choose Utah and the Wasatch Front for their locations? Well, the answers are fairly straightforward. 

In addition to the outstanding scenery, film companies can also get a 20-25% tax credit for filming in the Beehive State. In addition to other incentives for big-budget films, Utah is home to outstanding talent, both onscreen and off, and many in the industry have had nothing but good to say about the local help on movies. 

As Ryan Starks, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity said as part of the 100 Years of Film in Utah Celebration: “The growth of Utah’s film industry over the last 100 years has impacted every corner of our state both economically and culturally. Film production has created jobs, supported local businesses, and encouraged tourism across the state. We can’t wait to see what Utah’s film industry can accomplish in the next 100 years."

It’s impossible to say when the next movie will make its way to Davis, but with these incentives, as well as the backdrops this area provides, from the Great Salt Lake to Lagoon, to the high schools and more, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to think that it won’t be too long before Davis hears the call for lights, camera, action!