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Miss Rotunda who performed at the Chieftain very likely was Tony Rath. Another story about Tony-Rotunda is that she was once in a drag show in Oklahoma City where she did her number on roller skates. Rotunda weighed 400 lbs. or more, and the floor wasn’t too good. One of the skate wheels broke through, causing her to fall, but did that stop the show? No. On the floor, she turned her head to the audience, and with her arms and legs and chiffon flailing, finished the number.
On the business end, one of Tony’s brags was that he could take a straight bar and “turn it” (his words), almost overnight. The last I heard of Tony he was in a nursing home in the Oklahoma City area.
I noticed the link after responding to you, and found the opening date on HTWWW. Your site is interesting. You’ve done LOTS of work.
I saw HTWWW for the first time about four years ago in Bradford, England, and enjoyed it very much.
I also called the man who probably would have owned the Cooper Theatre during the time HTWWW was shown, but he’s been dead about 8 years. His wife, who answered the phone, came into his life after his theatre days, and she didn’t know any details about the Cooper.
I didn’t know 3-strip was installed at the Cooper. What was the date of the HOW THE WEST WAS WON engagement? Do you know if it was done from one projection room? I don’t recall ever seeing Able and Charlie projection rooms in the Cooper, or vestiges of them. I know 3-strip was at the Warner Theatre, where I saw THIS IS CINERAMA, in about 1955, and it was a great presentation, by the way.
This continues off-topic from the Continental Theatre, but for what it’s worth…THIS IS CINERAMA at the Warner started with the black-and-white prologue shown from the original nose-bleed 35mm projection room onto a tiny portion of the screen, and then switched to the 3-strip feature, accompanied by the curtain opening to the full width of the giant screen. The screen was so large it had to sit in front of the proscenium. I had never heard such good sound. A person in a control room at the back of the auditorium controlled the presentation.
Some trivia…The back walls of the stage houses of the Cooper and Midwest butted up to each other, and there was an opening cut through so dressing rooms could be shared. Also, the back wall of the Warner’s stage house faced the sides of the Cooper and Midwest stage houses. The Warner took chilled water from the air conditioning units in the basement of the Midwest for its air conditioning.
Before seeing your post, I did dig up an ad, and 2001 was showing at the Cooper Theatre, as you said. I apologize for the error.
The Cooper was a Downtown theatre, while the Continental was in a suburban business district a few miles northwest of Downtown. The Cooper was born in the vaudeville days as the Liberty Theatre. Cooper Foundation, which also owned the downtown Criterion, demolished the front few feet of the Liberty in the early 1950s, constructed a “modern” front, closed off much of the balcony, installed plush seating, spiffed up the interior, and re-named it the Harber Theatre. After a few years, they refurbished it again, installed 70mm equipment for 1-strip Cinerama and other 70mm processes, and re-named it the Cooper Theatre, which it kept until it was demolished.
Hmmm. 2001 was in its 70mm first-run engagement when I saw it, which was between 1966 and 1969. I’m sure it was at the Continental. However, it could have shown at the Cooper, as it had the equipment to show it. I went with students in one of my high school classes, and my memory places it at the Continental. Perhaps we could dig up theatre ads in the Daily OKLAHOMAN to confirm where it played.
As to seating in the Majestic, the Nov. 30, 1930 inventory indicates a total of 904 seats. 607 were on the main floor and 297 were in the balcony. At that time, the theatre was owned by Ralph Talbot Theatres, who owned all four of the major Tulsa downtown first-run theatres.
In other details, the inventory indicated that the projection room had Simplex Model R double-bearing projection heads, Motiograph lamp houses with automatic carbon feeds, and two sets of Bausch and Lomb Cinephor projection lenses. It had a leased Western Electric disc and film sound system, which was the first theatre sound in Tulsa. There was a Powers double dissolver, with a 1000-watt mazda lamp. There was a vertical Hertner Transverter motor generator, mounted on the roof, to provide DC current to the lamphouses. Also on the roof was a smaller horizontal Hertner Transverter. No mention was made of its application, although it may have been used for the lamphouses when the screen size was smaller.
There was a DeVry C90 portable projector, presumably for screening, in the offices on the second floor of the Majestic.
The Majestic had the narrowest of the four buildings, at 50 ft. Its screen was also the smallest, at 14 ft. by 17 ft. The Rialto building was 65 ft. wide, and its screen was 14 ft. by 19 ft. The Orpheum building was the widest, at 80 ft., and its screen was 24 ½-ft. by 29 ½ ft. The Ritz, with a 72 ft. building width, was not the widest, but nevertheless had the largest screen, at 24-ft. by 33-ft. Both the Ritz and Orpheum had enlarged their screens, and the inventory listed their smaller screens which were still on the stages.
The Majestic had a 90-ton belt-driven Wittenmeier horizontal air conditioning compressor, with a 9-ft. flywheel, driven by a 100-hp., 220-volt, 600-rpm GE wound-rotor motor.
It had a 3-manual, 16-rank Robert Morton pipe organ, with its console on a hydraulic lift. A spare pipe organ blower was stored in Talbot Theatres' warehouse. The spare blower was a 15-hp. 1100 rpm Spencer Orgoblo.
The Majestic’s huge signature sign was most notable in Oklahoma theatre signage, and was described in the inventory as an electric skeleton sign. It was 49 ft. 6 in. wide by 28 ft. high. It had 935 bulbs, served by a 17-contact flasher and a 3-contact flasher.
When its pipe organ was removed, the resonators on the 16-ft. octave of the tuba rank were taken to the Tulsa dump. They were unmitred wood, and in perfect condition. Kenneth Knepper, a Tulsa machinist who had a love for pipe organs, rescued the resonators from the dump before they were damaged, and stored them in the attic of his shop. He didn’t use them, and sold them to me. In another transaction, I got the bass drum from the Majestic’s organ.
Near the end, the Majestic went from B-grade action bookings to XXX. It was converted into a 3-screen theatre. There was a fire, and it was built back as a 2-screen. In the late 60s, I was in it in its 2-screen configuration. I remember it as a neat building with good air conditioning, comfortable seats, a bright picture, good sound, and, a hot movie!
In the previous post, let’s change “was” to “saw”, and “2002” to “2001”. The proofreader apologizes…
It was a nice theatre. I was 2002: A SPACE ODYSSEY there, LENNY, and other good pictures. Here are a couple of tidbits about it – – it reportedly had a 99-ft. screen. The surround speakers on the back wall were Altec A-7s.
The Tulsa Dreamland’s owner also owned the Dreamland in Okmulgee, OK, and the Dreamland in Muskogee, OK.
It isn’t likely that Leon B. Senter designed the Grand Theatre. When the Grand opened in 1906, Mr. Senter would have been 17 years old, and very likely was just graduating from Manual High School in Kansas City, MO. He then enrolled in Architectural Engineering at International Correspondence School in Scranton, PA. While getting his schooling, he worked as an office boy for Moore Brothers in Kansas City. In 1910, he began working for Corrigan, Lea and Halpin Construction Co. of Kansas City, and served as a steel superintendant on construction projects.
From 1912 to 1915 he was employed as a draftsman and specification writer for Smith, Rea, and Lovitt, Architects, of Kansas City. In 1915, he moved to Okmulgee, OK., which was enjoying an oil boom at the time, and became the branch manager of Smith, Rea, and Lovitts' office there. He designed many significant buildings and homes in Okmulgee, all of which are standing. in 1918, he became a partner of the firm, and the name became Smith, Rea, Lovitt, and Senter, Architects. In 1925, he received Oklahoma Architectural License #1.
He evolved into a gifted art deco designer.
In 1928, oilman Waite Phillips enticed Senter to move to Tulsa, where he lived until his death in 1965. In Tulsa, he designed the Coliseum, the Philcade Building, and many more distinquished buildings. But not the Grand Theatre. Senter also designed buildings in Guthrie, OK., Stillwater, OK., and Ponca City, OK.
The only theatre he designed is the Orpheum in Okmulgee. Its styling is an elegant derivation of Spanish Baroque Revival.
The Orpheum opened Aug. 23, 1920. The opening picture, called a photoplay at that time, was “Eyes of Youth”, with Clara Kimball Young. Also featured on the opening program was a pipe organ concert, and a 12-unit stage show produced by the Vanderbilt University Glee Club of Nashville, TN.
Construction started in 1919, which is the date on the cornerstone, but it actually opened in 1920. It was built by L. H. D Cook, and its name initially was the Cook Theatre, which is in raised terra cotta at the top of the facade. CT, for Cook Theatre, is repeated on small terra shields over poster frames in the lobby, and is also on an oval shield at the top of the proscenium arch.
Orpheum Vaudeville was featured, and within two months of opening, Mr. Cook was using both the Orpheum and Cook names in parallel, with the name ‘Cook’ in smaller print. In less than a year, he officially changed the theatre’s name to the Orpheum, and installed an elaborate new double-sided electric sign with the name ‘Orpheum’ in bright incandescent lights, beneath a crown of lights known as waterburst lighting. The waterburst effect was produced by a motorized electromechanical flasher housed in a steel cabinet inside the building.
According to a retired stagehand, the main stage curtain opened both vertically, and side-to-side, using a curtain motor that flew. Conversion from stage to screen could be done in 45 seconds.
Ownership of the theatre was separated from ownership of the building, and Griffith Brothers Theatres, which evolved into Griffith Amusement Co., and then into Video Independent Theatres, purchased the theatre, ca. 1924. Keith/Albee/Orpheum never owned it. The building was sold in tiny fractional interests to Greek people, many of whom lived in Greece, and didn’t pay their share of taxes or maintenance. It took several years, and the help of the Greek ambassador, to consolidate the fractured ownership.
Martin Theatres got it in 1982 by absorbing the Video Theatres circuit. Martin was soon re-named Carmike Cinemas, who operated it into 1991. An independent operator bought the theatre from Carmike, and then bought the building from the landlord.
Video Theatres enclosed the balcony and converted it into two theatres in 1974.
As to architectural features that are covered, occasionally a new treasure is discovered. The most recent discovery was two circular plaster embellishments in the plain portion of the ceiling that was over cheap seats in the upper balcony, and is now covered by a suspended ceiling.
The remains of upper orchestra box seats were discovered behind false plaster walls at the side of the stage. The false walls were removed, and destroyed decorative plaster was reconstructed by a retired Hollywood craftsman.
Actually, the Inca wasn’t built until 1934, a few months after the Hippodrome was destroyed by arson, on Dec. 31, 1933. Joe Cooper of Cooper Foundation Theatres is reported to have used money from Paramount Pictures to build it. There is no evidence that John Eberson was architect, although Eberson was architect of the Hippodrome. The Inca was put in an existing building about 100 ft. west of the Hippodrome location. Pictures show the auditorium was plain, with a small amount of painted ornamentation. There is no evidence that the projection room was on the alley. There is evidence of an air washer having been on the alley, however. The floor was flattened when the building was converted to retail occupancy in the 1950s, and old timers say that the marquee is buried in sand underneath the new floor. Townspeople give the first manager of the Inca, Malcolm Cook, credit for inventing SCREENO. There was a “David vs. Goliath” battle with Griffith Bros. Theatres, who didn’t like competition, and the Inca was a tough competitor. Griffith bought the Inca building, and an adjoining building. But Joe Cooper didn’t just turn out the lights and walk out. It took Griffith a year to get him out.
The Esquire, a one-screen theatre opened at the tail end of the silent film era, was converted to two screens in 1970. It was the first small town theatre in Oklahoma to be converted to two screens.
Architect: Hudgins, Thompson, Ball, and Associates, of Oklahoma City. Original Seating: 600 approx.
Here’s more information:
Architect: Leon B. Senter
Style: Spanish Baroque Revival
Seats: Originally 1200; now 550.
Date of Opening: 1920
Screens: 2 – Its balcony was enclosed in 1974 for the second screen.
Function: In commercial operation, playing first-run movies