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I don’t believe the fixtures in the Orpheum were quite like the one pictured. The Orpheum’s fixtures were faced with strips of frosted glass, as the fixture in the picture does, but the strips were the full length of the fixture, which was about four feet, and the fixtures were a little less elegant than the one pictured. The fixtures that were on the Orpheum sidewalls were mounted where oscillating fans were originally installed.
Video Theatres (and their predecessor, Griffith Theatres), used the same fixture that was in the Orpheum in several of their theatres.
According to the opus list in the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ book, Opus 691 was born as a 2/6 “D” Special. On 9/23/1924, three ranks of pipes were added, and it became a 2/9. In 1926, it was moved from the Rialto to the Orpheum.
A 4/11 Robert-Morton was then installed in the Rialto, to give the Rialto an organ with a console comparable to the 4-manual console at the Ritz, which was a competing theatre at that time.
The book doesn’t tell this, but after the Wurlitzer underwent many hours of donated early-morning and late-night maintenance, it was quietly removed from the Orpheum one weekend. It was taken to a home in the Dallas area, where it remains, and is currently playing.
The Austin organ’s 16-foot violone rank and 16-foot open diapason rank were located a few years ago stored over the boiler room at a Baptist college in Watertown, WI, and were brought back to the theatre.
Note the large elevated Ritz sign in the upper right-hand corner of the 1950s Majestic photo A0219. Would that have been for the theatre, or was there another building with the name Ritz?
Roger, 10-4 on the benefit of diverting the popcorn smell into the auditorium, and using plenty of salt! Good popcorn and soft drink sales would have kept Video’s head of concessions, Louise Wesson, happy. Miss Wesson was a sweetheart, but she knew where the bottom line was at all times.
Your father was always very nice. Actually, the whole company was a gracious group of people. And knew how to party! Was Claude Fulghum still there when you were there?
My acquaintance with Video began when I was a student at Oklahoma University at Norman, and needed to borrow a CinemaScope lens. My dormitory had a Christmas party each year for kids from the Baptist Orphanage in Oklahoma City, which was located about where the Waterford Hotel is now. I had 35mm projectors, and my part of the deal was to show a movie. Eldon Peek at Oklahoma Theatre Supply wouldn’t lend me lenses, and I didn’t even try National Theatre Supply, but went to Video to borrow lenses. Then I went up and down film row scrounging for cartoons and comedies. Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers, MGM, and Screen Guild would always fix me up with enough film.
I gradually got acquainted with many of the executives and staff at the Video home office, and when I was in Oklahoma City, the executives would invite me to join them on their coffee breaks. An O'Mealey’s Cafeteria on 23rd Street was one of their favorite places. The conversation was wonderful. For some reason, they usually didn’t go to the Film Coffee Shop or Hardy’s for coffee, both of which were nearby. But those places were also great for theatre conversation. Maxine Haberlin, the wife of Walt Haberlin who managed the State Theatre, owned the Film Coffee Shop, and Mr. Haberlin served up interesting conversation when he was in there. The State had the second pair of Norelco Todd-AO 70mm projectors in Oklahoma. (The Rialto in Tulsa had the first pair.)
When I needed various projector parts, Video would give them to me, and Ben Brewer, their projection technician, would tell me what town to go to to get the part, and where in the building the part would be found. He had an uncanny memory for where he stashed things. Some of the towns I went to were Chickasha, Holdenville, Ardmore, and Guthrie. I started getting acquainted with managers and employees. It was lots of driving, but let me add it was lots of fun!
Didn’t know that George Snow was in a Nazi POW camp. He spoke with an accent, and now I can see the Russian in him. That’s interesting. One time he gave me a Simplex X-L that had a cracked casting, but was complete, and I got many valuable parts off of it. I remember Dusty Rhodes. Frank McCabe, husband of Wee Gee, was indeed a gem. Could the older guy you mentioned in the Poster Department who worked with Oliver Hardy, have been Leonard Bateman? Another man in shipping, Leroy ???, was a good egg.
Frank Love provided me with some of the historic photos I have, and also many old programs, some of which he added comments to. His father had been a stagehand and artist at Okmulgee, and Frank grew up backstage at the Hippodrome and Orpheum theatres during the heyday of the 1920s, which were boom times in Okmulgee. When sound came, his father made large Vitaphone embellishments that were attached to the buildings.
Johnny Jones, the Video partner in Shawnee, considered buying the Video company. He had the personality and business acumen to operate it, and if he had bought it, it wouldn’t have been sold to Carmike. One can speculate as to how things would have gone, but I believe that with his hand guiding the company, things wouldn’t have gone any way but well.
Ken Mc, thanks for the link to the SCREENO lawsuit. Interesting!
Roger, making deliveries to all the Video towns must have been fun. You no doubt met managers and employees around the circuit. Do you remember Frank Love at Clinton, and later, Miami? Horace Clark at Chickasha? Newt Butler and Randy Maxey at Hobart? Juanita Stehr at Mangum?
Would Earl Albright have been your father? I’ve met him, and remember him as a stocky man, with a smile.
Video was a tight-knit community unto itself. And they were all nice people.
I was well acquainted with Louise Wesson, who cracked the whip in the concession department, while chain-smoking Chesterfields. She always drove a new Cadillac. I was also acquainted with George Snow, who was their screening room projectionist, and did repair work on concession equipment and projection equipment. Mr. Snow was also known as the “Snowman”. I barely knew Petey.
Others I remember are Ben Brewer, the head projection technician, and “Johnny” Johnson in the concession and shipping department. These were two more Video stalwarts, wouldn’t you say?
Alegra “Wee Gee” McCabe, the receptionist, was notable. Wee Gee served as gatekeeper, and controlled who got on the elevator to go up to executive offices. If you didn’t get past her, you didn’t get in, unless you knew how to get to the back stairway. Wee Gee’s clearly-enunciated pages on the office-wide paging system, such as “MR. ROGER ALBRIGHT, ROGER ALBRIGHT, PLEASE,” are indelibly ingrained in my memory.
Oklahomo Cowboy, in a previous post you mentioned THE HISTORY OF VAUDEVILLE IN OKLAHOMA, the doctoral thesis by John Peter Sinopoulo-Wilson. It’s really good.
I’d like to get a copy of the K. Kay Brandes book.
John Peter Sinopoulo-Wilson’s grandfather, Peter Sinopoulo, and John’s great uncle, John Sinopoulo, were Greek immigrant brothers who founded the Delmar Gardens Amusement Park in Oklahomo City in the early 1900s. Mosquitos and prohibition hurt business at Delmar Gardens, and they could see the market for vaudeville and movies, so they converted the Overholser Opera House, also in Oklahoma City, into the Orpheum (Warner)Theatre. They were the principles behind construction of the Midwest Theatre, as well as other theatres.
The first movie I recall seeing in my life was at the Midwest, and was EASTER PARADE. As an adult, I bought the Brenkert carbon-arc follow spot at the Midwest auction sale, and retrieved a small plaster rosette from one of the balcony lights as the building was coming down. I have a set of blueprints for the Midwest, which I found in the remains of the Cooper Theatre (formerly Liberty, Harber), as it was being knocked down.
John Sinopoulo watched the demolition of the Warner, and advised the demolition contractor on the placement of steel beams that were making the building difficult to knock down. However, Mr. Sinopoulo was 100 years old and home-bound at the time of the demolition of the Midwest, and the family didn’t tell him about it, as it had been special to him, and they feared it would break his heart. His brother and partner, Peter Sinopoulo, had already died.
The Midwest was a treasure that should have never come down. At the time of its demolition around 1973, John and Peter’s names were still on beautiful 3rd-floor office doors, in as good condition as when they were new in the late 1920s. They had a secret opening in their offices through which they could watch the movie.
John Sinopoulo’s mansion, called Sundial, which still stands on Kelley, at about 40th Street, was designed by the architect of the Midwest, John Eberson. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The family sold it a few years ago.
Peter Sinopoulo’s daughter is still living, and is the wife of Byron Gambulos, who owns Byron’s Liquors in Oklahoma City. They lived many years at Sundial. Byron, who has served on the board of the Oklahoma Historical Society, is a vast repository of knowledge of theatres in Oklahoma City. I hear they have 35mm movies of various theatre promotional activities and family activities during the 1920s.
Can one delete a duplicate post? Sorry about that.
Thank you for the link, Cosmic Ray. I’d like to go through the box of Griffith records. As to the Rex in Okmulgee, I have an exterior and an interior picture of it. But not of the Okmulgee Cozy, Dreamland, or Drew(Love) theatres.
By the way, I hear Bob Blackburn loves theatres.
I wonder if Leon Senter did any remodeling work on other Tulsa theatres?
Leon Senter’s page on this website:
needs to be updated to include the Rialto work.
Mr. Senter also designed the Tulsa YMCA Building on Denver, around 5th Street, and it’s not listed either. He did buildings in Ponca City, and on the OSU/Stillwater campus that aren’t listed.
I was acquainted with Mr. Senter’s daughter, June Senter Perryman, during the last years of her life. She was proud of his work and talked about many of the projects he did. But she didn’t mention the Rialto. He did a nice job on it.
Sharp eye, Seymour! Okie Medley gives credit to Boller Bros. for the Rialto’s 1940’s modernization, although the Rialto drawing he directs us to on the Mayo website is by Leon Senter, as you noted.
Was it built according to Senter’s design? Or could there have been an alternative design by the Bollers that it was built from?
My memory of the facade is mostly limited to the marquee, although I remember fairly clearly the CO2 air conditioning compressor in the basement, with its huge flywheel, which was in service to the end.
On another tangent, I wonder where R. V. McGinnis got the cash to buy the 70mm TODD-AO projectors that he showed “OKLAHOMA!” on? He was the first in Oklahoma to get them, getting them a short while before the State Theatre in Oklahoma City got theirs.
Cosmic, those are impressive names you’ve rubbed elbows with! must have been fun. I have a friend in Tulsa who goes to Hollywood and papparazzis the stars. He gets interesting photos.
Seymour, another person is doing scans of the pictures for me, and when they’re done, I’ll submit them.
On another topic, are you acquainted with the Cinema Treasures' webmaster? I suggested some corrections to him (or her) that need to be made on the Inca page, and on other pages, but didn’t receive a response. Are you in communication with them?
Where did Miss Melba perform?
Seymour, …just saw your Dec. 7 post on Jan. 6, 2007…sorry to be so long responding. I didn’t know the Star had a thread until tonight, ‘til I read your post on the Inca thread, which has kind of turned into a bulletin board. And an interesting one.
I don’t believe I have any photos of the Star.
Regarding other Okmulgee County theatres, the little towns of Beggs, Dewar, and Kusa had theatres. Do you have any information on any of them?
Cosmic, 10-4 on what a per patron average can tell about ticket re-selling.
Were you acquainted with Maurice Ferris at Spectro? Or with Farris Shanbour? Maurice and Farris were competitors and acted like they hated each other, although they both came from Lebanese stock. Maurice once bid away a picture from Farris at an outlandish price, and had to go around town scraping up cash to pay the bid before he could get the print.
You’re correct about Video having concession merchandise priced from 1 cent to $1. And they probably succeeded in getting the last penny out of most kids' pockets!
We’re still stretching use of the Inca page. Let’s hope the soul of Inca manager Malcolm Cook will tolerate us, and perhaps give us his blessing. Bet he could contribute LOTS of interesting tidbits if he were living. By the way, as an addition to my previous post, the Inca marquee was styled like the Star’s in Morris, and used the same type of letter.
Seymour, I don’t believe I have anything on the Star. What do you know about it? But I do have an ad for the Dreamland, a 1920ish theatre in Morris. The Dreamland bragged that they played good movies, and had a fine pipe organ.
I wonder if the Star could have been in the same building as the Dreamland?
In its last years, the Star was used by a church, but all the trappings of a movie theatre were still there. Pentecostals love theatres! The preacher wanted letters for the marquee, which were not a standard Wagner or Adler letter, and I gave him a set I had stored away that were the right style. But mine were 10", and he needed 8", so he never did get to use the marquee.
Its final chapter was written when a tornado went through Morris in the 1980s. The Star/church building was seriously damaged, and it was demolished. I walked through it before it was taken down, and the marquee was still on it, the tattered screen was still there, and the projection room was OK, but most of the roof was missing.
Video’s pay scale was not overly generous.
Managers did earn a bonus based on concession sales, providing concession shortages were below a low threshold. Video’s head of concessions for many years was Miss Louise Wesson, a Cadillac-driving, chain-smoking lady who was a genius at long-distance concessions management. Her accounting system recorded every cup, bag, and candy bar that went to each theatre, and “confidential observers” would visit theatres to see that unofficial merchandise wasn’t being sold. Inventories were taken once a month, and cash sales were compared with the value of merchandise that had been dispensed.
In another area of her monitoring, if the popping volume or drink pour got out of line, she sent a letter to the manager notifying him or her that either the equipment was out of order, or there was an employee problem, and that they needed to do whatever was necessary to correct the problem.
Some of us thought Video’s concession prices were too high, and their drinks too watery, but Miss Wesson is given credit for saving the company in the early days of television, because of her large concession profits.
Just a minor correction…Video didn’t actually have an interest in CBS, but did have a 1/8-interest in Oklahoma City’s CBS affiliate, KWTV, channel 9.
How’d you happen to get on this Inca thread? It’s getting interesting. As is the Chieftain thread. Are you in theatre business? How about Seemour Coks, and Cosmic Ray, and Okie Medley?
When the 1971 article about Video was printed, I wondered what the motivation for it was, and asked one of the Video executives, who told me it was to discourage an anticipated competitor. Would your friend mind if you gave the name of his grandfather who was the projectionist, and what towns he worked in? Is he living?
This is the first I’ve heard of scrip stock being used by Griffith to pay wages in the depression.
As to the Gay Mile, one of Carmike’s district managers was a daddy-type who regularly hung his pants at the Habana.
And when one of the retired Video presidents was in his dotage, he’d rent a room there, where he’d drink a little and fantasize about diddling a lady of the night, I suspect. But it could have been a man of the night.
Let me take the long route to comment on your 1971 question about payroll, with quite a bit of history…
Griffith Bros. Theatres began in 1915, and evolved into Griffith Amusement Co. in the late 1920s when they partnered with Universal Studios. But the Griffiths didn’t like Universal, and in a skillfully planned maneuver in 1934, they bought Univeral’s interest back. In 1949, the chain evolved into Video Independent Theatres, Inc., with former Griffith executives as stockholders. Actually, not too much changed except the name and ownership of real estate. Most of the buildings went to Griffith Realty Co., which Video then leased back.
Griffith had started opening drive-ins, and Video continued opening drive-ins, as fast as they could build them, and good days were ahead.
Video was the dominant theatre circuit in Oklahoma, as Griffith had been. They were tough operators, and there was no competition in most of the towns. Griffith and Video did their best to see that it stayed that way. They didn’t even like second-run competition, and would keep a secondary house operating that would butt heads with a second-run competitor, and then close the secondary house as soon as the competitor left. They also kept closed houses in operating condition, which could quickly be opened if a competitor threatened them. But if the competitor were black, he wasn’t disturbed, and could even count on help from Video in the event of a breakdown.
In the 1930s in Okmulgee, Griffith butted heads with the Paramount-financed Inca Theatre, and couldn’t stand the competition. But they had a difficult time driving them out, and had to buy the building out from under them in 1939 to get rid of them as a competitor. Getting rid of “upstart” competition went on all over the state, but usually it didn’t take such drastic measures as buying buildings to get rid of them.
In 1953, Video provided seed money for KWTV, the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, taking a 12 ½% interest.
In 1957, Video’s Vumore, a community antenna TV company, developed Telemovie, the first pay-TV system that offered first-run movies.
Because of the death of Video president Henry Griffing in an airplane crash in 1960, Video was offered for sale. A subsidiary of General Tire, RKO General, bought the stock in Video in 1961, at an unannounced purchase price, but stockholders were well rewarded for their shares. What RKO General really wanted was the Vumore Company, to add to their cable TV business.
Although Vumore was to be the prize baby, General Tire was a good steward of Video, and operated the theatres well. In addition, they made their stock available to all Video employees, by way of a payroll withholding plan. General tires were offered to employees at bargain prices.
In 1964, there were 130 operating theatres, 71 of which were indoors, and 59 were drive-ins. There were 1,289 employees,and annual payroll exceeded $1.8 million.
In a series of maneuvers in 1968, the Vumore subsidiary was moved from Oklahoma City to Colorado, and its name was changed to Cablecom General. Then, Video Independent Theatres was sold to Cablecom General, effectively making the theatre division a subsidiary of its re-named former cable TV subsidiary.
There were ownership changes that I can’t remember offhand.
Some of Video’s towns began drawing competition, and the 1971 article you mentioned served as chest-beating to publicize Video’s dominance and strength to try to ward off competitors. But competitors nevertheless began moving into their good towns, and built new facilities, and took the towns. As to the number of screens, 150 in 1971 is probably about right. As to the correctness of the 1971 yearly payroll at $1 million, I don’t know why it would have been so much lower than the 1964 payroll of $1.8 million. But Video’s pay scale wasn’t high.
Things had gone downhill in Video’s theatre business because theatre earnings, which were good, were siphoned off to upgrade cable TV systems. And, the theatre business was moving to new multi-screen theatres that Video needed to be investing in. Video executives knew what they needed to be doing, and were frustrated that they couldn’t use their earnings to do it.
In 1981, Cablecom General and its now-debilitated Video Independent Theatres subsidiary, was sold to Capital Cities Communications for a reported $139 million. Video was suffering. In 1983, when the theatre circuit was down to 85 operating screens, it was sold to Martin Theatres for approximately $2 million. Martin Theatres was renamed Carmike Cinemas, for the father-son pair, Carl and Mike Patrick. The Martin/Carmike takeover was not deftly handled, and left many Video employees feeling battered.
Video’s drive-ins had been upgraded and were in good condition, but Martin/Carmike closed all of them in one fell swoop, except perhaps for one, and is reported to have sold off enough drive-in land to pay for the acquisition of the circuit. Then Carmike began building new facilities in many of Video’s towns. Carmike likes mid-market towns, and like Video, likes them without competition. They’ve lost a few Oklahoma towns to competition, and have competitors in a small number of towns, but have been successful keeping the other towns free of competitors.
Mike Patrick, who was a little cocky in his younger days, once bragged, in his southern drawl, that he paid more for his home office building in Columbus, Georgia, than he paid for the entire Video Circuit.
R. Lewis Barton’s Barton Theatres circuit operated the Home Theatre for an indefinite period that was probably in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In a Dec. 2, 1999, article in the Oklahoma City JOURNAL-RECORD, Mr. Barton is credited with breaking the “downtown stranglehold on first-run movies” by bidding on them for the Home.
It its last years, the Home played art films. When I was a child, my family attended the musical ones, and regretted to see it close. After it closed, we went to the Frontier (Log Cabin), on NW 39th Street, for those movies, and then to the Plaza, on NW 16th Street, which played art film for a short time, and was temporarily re-named the Plaza Art Theatre. Lindy Shanbour, younger brother of possibly Oklahoma City’s best showman, the fabled Farris Shanbour, was a ticket seller at the Plaza Art as a young man. I saw Gene Kelly’s INVITATION TO THE DANCE at the Plaza Art. Lindy currently owns the Winchester Drive-in in Oklahoma City, which he inherited from his brother, George Shanbour, another Oklahoma City theatre icon.
Back to Farris, he resurrected the downtown Criterion, and the neighborhood Plaza and Tower Theatres, put them all on first-run product, and extended their economic lives several years. When he officed on 23rd Street in the later years of his operation, he’d walk his deposit down the street to the bank with one arm sticking out and a big money bag in his hand, and his other arm around his beautiful big-tittied secretary.
How much admission did the Chieftain charge, and what size audiences did they attract for the gay programs?
Bob Cook, when was the date of your father, Malcolm Cook’s, death, and where is he buried? Would you have an obituary? Were you old enough to know the goings-on in Okmulgee show business during the 1934 to 1940 period that the Inca and the Orpheum were battling it out? To get rid of the Inca as a competitor, they had to buy the building out from under them, and then it took a year to get Paramount and Joe Cooper out.
As to SCREENO, locals give your father credit for inventing it, but no one has knowledge of how it was marketed, or how the rights were transferred after his death. Do you have any old records pertaining to this? Do you have a SCREENO system? I have a SCREENO 1-sheet that came out of the attic of the Inca.
Seymour, I have several, how did you know, and will be happy to share them. I’ll have to find out the photo requirements for Cinema Treasures, and then send them.
There are two Okmulgee theatres I don’t have pictures of that would be particularly nice to have. One is the Dreamland, and the other is the Love (Drew). Both were Black-owned houses. The Dreamland would be ca. 1920s, and the Love (Drew) ca. 1946-1954. So if anyone has them, and is willing to share, would they let me know?
The Chieftain was owned by R. Lewis Barton’s Barton Theatres, a local circuit that owned most of the drive-ins and most of the neighborhood theatres in the Oklahoma City Metropolitan area. By 1959, the area around the Chieftain had turned rough, and its patronage was also rough, and the Chieftain’s downhill slide was well underway.
Bill Edmondston, who owned the Rex Theatre in the tiny town of Covington, Oklahoma, wasn’t making much money, so he closed the Rex, moved to Oklahoma City, and went to work for Mr. Barton managing the Chieftain. Behavior was unruly.
Mr. Edmondston was a white-shirt-and-tie type of manager who insisted on good discipline, and it didn’t take long for him to see that controlling behavior at the Chieftain would be difficult. So he took the keys to Mr. Barton, resigned, and moved back to Covington. He then finished his career working as a projectionist at Video Independent Theatre’s Esquire Theatre in Enid, Oklahoma, under manager Paul Shipley. Mr. Edmondston was paid more than the other projectionists, and his paycheck was sent with the manager’s paycheck rather than with the staff paychecks, so no one else could see it. One other tidbit is that he got to be the first projectionist in the Video Circuit to use Xenon lamphouses.