The LDS Motion Picture Studio, once the BYU Motion Picture Studio, was opened in 1953 and served as the studio where BYU, its students, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filmed numerous movies and short films.
Opened in 1953, the LDS Motion Picture Studio (MPS), previously known as the BYU Motion Picture Studio, has been the primary setting of films for BYU and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for decades. The formal separation of the studio from Brigham Young University happened in 1991 when the studio came under the operation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The films produced by the studio were for “missionary work, education purposes, home and family use, and other Church related purposes.”
When the studio opened, Ernest L. Wilkinson was the president of BYU and Wetzel Whitaker was appointed as the studio’s first director. While some of the films created were privately funded, most were funded by the Church and the university. Some films created included a 10-minute film in 1957 named “On Your Honor” and depicted the honor code in an effort to explain it better to students. In 1976, a film was created on the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout time. The BYU Motion Picture Studio has even produced some award-winning films. In 1973, in the 21st Annual Columbus International Film Festival held in Ohio, “Run Dick, Run Jan,” a film about health and physical fitness made by the BYU Motion Picture Studio, won the Chris Plaque in the health and medicine category. It was the second award that BYU had won at the festival, with the previous one being in 1967 for “Love is for the Birds.” In 1989, “A More Perfect Union: American Becomes a Nation” was created in the studio about the US Constitution. The film experienced great popularity and won an Emmy for the best cultural docu-drama. The studio also held writing workshops for future screenwriters and other events for the public. For example, the studio hosted “Christmas Hour” which became roaringly popular for community members. In 1962, the Three D’s—a popular Church music band—were featured in the program. Additionally, the studio frequently advertised in the student newspapers for actors.
The Motion Picture Studio has also experienced numerous damages through the years. In 1964, a fire—said to be the worst in Utah County history—damaged equipment and a section of the studio, costing the school $500,000. Later, in 1969, a falling truss created considerable damage to the building. In 2014, another fire began, fifty years after the first, caused by the explosion of an electrical box on the top of the studio. The studio has nevertheless persisted and is now in its 70th year. In 1975, one BYU student wrote an article in the Daily Universe, where they cited the BYU Motion Picture Studio as proof of the potential of the university. While BYU is no longer over the MPS, the sentiment continues to ring clear as the studio expands and progresses.