For months, Payson movie buffs were on the edge of their seats, waiting to find out who would win the Rim country's "great screen race." At the end of 1999, entrepreneurs Gordon Whiting and George Harrison launched a race against time and one another, in an effort to be the first to build a state-of-the-art movie theater in town. The Rim country had been without a theater since 1998, when Payson's only movie house, the Payson Picture Show, closed its doors.
Whiting was out to make a six-screen theater the anchor business for his planned Sawmill Crossing Shopping Center at Beeline and Main Street.
Harrison planned to build a four-screen theater in his new endeavor, Rim Country Mall, inside the old Wal-Mart building at Highway 260 and Manzanita Drive. To survive the first season, the theaters had to open before the Thanksgiving 2000 holiday movie releases.
In the end, Whiting pulled ahead, Harrison scrapped his plans for a theater, and the six-screen cineplex opened in Sawmill Crossing in November.
Sawmill Theatres features stadium seating, state-of-the-art sound, and, for the first time in Payson, first-run movies.
The Sawmill Crossing entertainment-shopping-dining complex is a key component of the town's longtime plan to redevelop the Main Street area.
Positioned on 14 acres south of Main and west of the Beeline, Sawmill Crossing's first and current phase includes three separate buildings on seven-and-a-half acres on the northern portion of the parcel. It will include nearly 30,000 square feet of retail and office space.
Additionally, there are three business pad sites along the Beeline, and one along Main Street, which has been claimed by area newcomer Stockmen's Bank. The bank will take up temporary residence in the main building until its permanent building is complete.
By March 2001, most of the center's business space had been leased by companies including the Rim Country Kids toy store, Mountain Respiratory Care, State Farm Insurance with agent Daryl Brende, Marble Slab Creamery and Quizno's Classic Subs.