Tower Theater

425 NW 23rd Street,
Oklahoma City, OK 73103

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Cimarron
Cimarron on July 15, 2014 at 3:14 am

Pic of Marquee and crowd in line for showing of “Unsinkable Molly Brown” uploaded in Photo Section.

Cimarron
Cimarron on March 8, 2014 at 5:17 am

Pic of Tower Theater, Oklahoma City, Night Time, Showing “Sound Of Music” added to Photo Section.

Cimarron
Cimarron on February 23, 2014 at 3:45 am

1965 “Sound Of Music” Ad included in Photo Section.

Cimarron
Cimarron on January 29, 2014 at 2:59 am

Pic of Tower Theater in 1964, playing The Unsinkable Molly Brown added to Photo Section.

Cimarron
Cimarron on January 27, 2014 at 3:39 am

1965 Pic of Tower Playing “Sound of Music” added to Photo Section.

Cimarron
Cimarron on January 23, 2014 at 10:47 pm

1963 Pic of Tower on a Rainey Day, added to photo section.

kpdennis
kpdennis on September 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Local Oklahoma City newspaper story about the Tower Theater: http://newsok.com/tower-theater-revival-dream-eludes-uptown/article/3881074

Cimarron
Cimarron on August 23, 2013 at 4:47 am

1940’s photo of Tower Theatre added to photo section.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on December 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm

What happened to “The Sound of Music” photo? There was a photo a couple years ago posted on this page of the Tower when it ran “The Sound of Music.” It was a great great shot showing the marquee and the entrance all decorated with huge posters of the film. Anyone know why the photo was deleted from this page?

Cimarron
Cimarron on October 29, 2012 at 2:15 am

Post of Tower Theater, Oklahoma City, 1950’s pic. Clik on Photo Tab above to view pics.

Coate
Coate on February 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm

“The Sound of Music” played here 82 weeks during its 1965-66 roadshow run. I imagine that is the longest engagement ever to play at the Tower or anywhere in Oklahoma City.

Homeboy
Homeboy on February 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm

The following story appeared in the February 2011 issue of “Signs of the Times,” a trade magazine for the sign industry.

The Gleaming Tower
Superior Neon reinvigorates an Oklahoma City landmark.
By Jim Gleason

In the summer of 1937, Oklahoma City was buzzing with talk of the opening of the Tower Theater on 23rd and Walker St. downtown. W. Scott Dunne, a Dallas architect, devised the building, and Super Sleuth, which starred Jack Oakie and Anne Sothern, was its first feature. Although it wasn’t the city’s first movie house, it was celebrated for its unique architecture, lighting and then-novel air conditioning, which was trumped in the Daily Oklahoman as “scientific refrigeration”.

For more than two decades, the Tower flourished. However, as population shifted to the suburbs, it lost many customers. During the early 1960s, the Cooper Foundation, which owned the Tower, shut it down. Two ownership groups subsequently operated the theater â€" including a successful renovation after a January 1967 fire — but the Tower’s popularity gradually declined, and its stint as a first-run movie house ended during the mid-1980s.

Eventually, local citizens began working to preserve the theatre. Its iconic sign — a diagonal blade sign with neon-bordered, 3-D, closed-face, neon-lit, porcelain cans that spell out “Tower” and descend into the marquee â€" had fallen into disrepair. One side of the marquee was severely crumpled, and served as a compelling reminder of the once-proud property’s decline.

In 2009, owner Marty Dillon and advisor Greg Banta spearheaded renovations on the property. They planned to repurpose the property as a mixed-use facility with office, retail and restaurant space, but they wanted the Tower sign and its legacy to serve as a testament to the property’s history.

Setting the stage

Dillon initially contacted me about restoring its signage. Because 23rd St. had been widened, the marquee’s front had become exposed to tall trucks and had been damaged. Also, parking spots had recently been created in front of the marquee.

At the time, he’d just purchased the building. I’d twice before bid on making repairs to the sign. With each visit, the site looked worse. The front was completely destroyed, and the side pieces were barely recognizable. The sign had also become home to many winged residents. Ultimately, Marty accepted my bid, which included restoration of the exterior, and repair and restoration of neon and other lighting.

Because the theater is located on Route 66, Marty submitted an application to the Route 66 Corridor Preservations Program for a restoration grant, a cost-share proposal that has previously helped restore other signs.

The National Parks Service, which administers the Route 66 program, accepted the application, contingent on the restoration of sign boxes, neon tubing, incandescent lighting, marquee and brick supports to their historic color and appearance.

Before we could begin work, Marty received approval from the city for our shop to occupy a parking space in front of the Tower throughout the project’s duration. City workers subsequently extended the sidewalk and curb in front of the theater to prevent trucks from wrecking our work.

To preserve the sign’s grandfathered status, we could only remove part of the sign. Its core had to remain intact. Halfway through the project, city officials contacted me about permits. After a meeting, we decided the Tower sign wouldn’t require one. We had to demonstrate the rebuilt segment represented a small portion compared to the sign’s overall size.

Extreme makeover

First, we developed a photographic scope of the work, which highlighted the damaged area and distinguished the work Superior would do from what Jacobs Contracting, which rebuilt the Tower’s exterior wall, would do. We used CorelDraw 10 to devise the rendering, as well as numerous sign-restoration components. Superior and Jacobs working on the project for several months over a carefully managed schedule to ensure both crews weren’t onsite at the same time.

The blade sign’s porcelain components required rust-stain removal, as well as priming and touch-ups. The upper section remained in relatively good shape, but the lower section had been destroyed by the truck’s impact.

To restore the rusted areas, Superior employees Robert Kazee and Basile Koliopus used wire-brush wheels to remove rusted areas. After having removed the spots, they primed and coated the areas with Matthews acrylic-polyurethane paint. After we’d prepped all the sections, Eric Morrison matched the cleaned porcelain and applied the polyurethane finish to the new piece.

When the truck hit the marquee, it knocked the upper internal frame out of plumb. The entire bottom had to be removed. We replaced numerous sections of sheetmetal filler with new aluminum, which we finished with acrylic-polyurethane paint. Other work crews, which had been subcontracted, helped with demolition. Once we’d dismantled the lower section, we cleaned up the site so we could focus on straightening the main frame in the upper section. We pulled the top back into plumb and fastened it back to the main marquee frame with temporary steel angle.

Over seven decades, the internal wiring had decomposed badly. It had been patched and repaired over the years, but needed a major overhaul. We stripped all wiring and transformers from the sign and installed 28 new transformers. As we removed the neon from the sign, we patterned and tested the tubing. It if was operational, we set it aside for re-installation. We searched unsuccessfully for the sign’s original, neon animator, and, because we couldn’t prove that the sign had been animated, it was forbidden per city code.

Because yellow glass is no longer available, we made a close match with veep-green tubing. As we installed the glass within the sign, we discovered much of the old glass we’d tried to save was badly stained and looked too dark alongside new tubing. We decided to replace 90% of the tubing, and ultimately installed 1,100 linear ft. of new neon.

Early in the project, we discussed using LEDs. However, our main objection was to restore a longstanding, neon icon to its former glory. Therefore, we decided that LED-lit tubing designed to replicate exposed neon wouldn’t suffice.

Something old, something new

To retrofit the new marquee, we had to remove several bricks below. Vintage theater marquees were built into the building, with integral steel structures fastened within the building’s construction. Some time during the theater’s history, the original, cast-stone façade had been overlaid with brick veneer. This addition covered part of the marquee, and it had to be removed to expose exterior-sign sections. We fabricated two new sections and removed both sides of the marquee.

The sign’s primary frame was structurally sound enough to preserve. We dislodged the primary sign components from the original support structure and realigned them with the marquee’s center. Using original sign photos, Superior rebuilt the sign’s base where it connects to the marquee.

Once we’d completed the lower-section demo, we brought all pieces back to the shop. Tony Summers and James Young transferred all measurements into CorelDraw. Using the measurements, Young and Tommy Tinoco recreated the entire bottom section. They exported the files to EnRoute 4 3-D sign software and cut all pieces on the shop’s MultiCam 3000 CNC router. We cut all new sections from 0.080-in.-thick aluminum, MIG-welded them to form the 3-D sections, and fabricated the “Tower” letters from 3/16-in.-thick, flat, white acrylic.

The marquee’s lighting required a redo as well. The fluorescent fixtures above and below the marquee were badly corroded and required removal. We power-washed the marquee’s underside, which had become discolored. Superior installed new, fluorescent lighting. The original faces were plate glass, and the letters porcelain as well. We retrofitted the new sign with 8-in.-tall, Wagner Zip-Change letters. For a final, finishing touch, we added stainless strips and polished-stainless screws.

Opening night

We haven’t yet replaced the marquee’s original underside. The original marquee ceiling actually stretched into the building; the building’s current exterior doors were 15 ft. inside the building. The bottom of the marquee extended into that area and connected to what was the original ticket booth. Our next phase of the project includes rebuilding the neon around the ticket booth and connecting it to the marquee.

We assembled all sign sections using an 85-ft. Skyhook HD bucket truck and a 55-ft.-reach Terex service bucket truck. Once we’d installed the pieces, Jacobs returned and built a new roof for the marquee, finished the building exterior and removed the brick that overlaid the original cast stone.

To bid on restoring such vintage signs is tricky. Many require a complete rebuild, and the cost can be prohibitive. We’ve restored other signs, such as one of the original neon signs for Sonic drive-ins, but this was a much larger scale. Fortunately, the Route 66 grant made it feasible.

We didn’t have tight deadlines, so we were able to complete the project carefully over four months. Dillon arranged a public sign lighting, which approximately 100 people attended. It was very gratifying to see the public applaud our hard work.

missmelbatoast
missmelbatoast on January 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm

On this link can be seen a mid 1960s image of the Tower Theater …
View link

seymourcox
seymourcox on July 16, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Vintage and modern photos of the Tower Theater come courtesy of Roadside Oklahoma;
http://www.roadsideoklahoma.com/node/492

lrostochil
lrostochil on May 2, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Photos of the Tower Theater sign lit up for the first time in two decades:

View link
View link

lrostochil
lrostochil on December 2, 2009 at 9:02 pm

The sign was recently restored and looks great — was lit for the first time in decades not too long ago. Here’s a photo of the sign during the day as it looks now:

View link

I will go back and take some photos at night very soon.

The theater itself has been gutted, along with several other buildings on the block, and they are for lease. The area is undergoing a nice revitalization, so I imagine that all of the buildings will be occupied soon and people will once again be shopping along NW 23rd.

Stagehandguy
Stagehandguy on August 3, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Sad to see now part of marque<sp> is gone as of 1 week? ago. I was there for a Slipknot Kittie concert/riot. few years ago. Promoter over sold the show and headliner Slipknot wouldn’t go on after Fire marshal removed all people not seated in chairs. The youth did not like this and did some damage while leaving…

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on May 3, 2009 at 2:06 am

Sign man needs a spell checker on that last photo…..

kpdennis
kpdennis on April 27, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Many apologies – Here is the correct link for the Tower in OKC:
View link

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on April 26, 2009 at 2:41 am

Think you have the wrong link there Kevin….

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 20, 2008 at 2:05 am

Opened on July 15, 1937 by Standard Theaters, with 926 seats. Here is the current real estate listing:
http://tinyurl.com/4p87xj

DonLewis
DonLewis on May 13, 2008 at 8:32 pm

A 1984 view of the Tower Theater in Oklahoma City.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on February 12, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Here is a view of the Tower from August 2004:
http://tinyurl.com/2tancf

CaptainBazzark
CaptainBazzark on December 26, 2006 at 8:30 am

During the early 1990’s the Tower Theater opened only on Saturday nights for midnight showings that attracted junior high kids for such films as “Crazy Momma”, “What’s the Matter with Helen”, “Who Slew Auntie Roo”, Ed Wood, Jr. crap, and other obscure movies.
At that time auditorium walls had been completely draped over with gold fabric, from one of many interior remodelings.