Crystal Theater

401 W. Broadway Street,
Okemah, OK 74859

Unfavorite 1 person favorited this theater

Showing 22 comments

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on July 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm

The Crystal Theatre was built owned and operated in 1921 by Col. J.E. Burke, this was the second Crystal Theatre in Okemah. By 1927, hard times hit the Crystal Theatre. Talking pictures were being released and the acoustics were bad inside the Crystal. The sound seemed to bounce back and forth.

In 1931 Anton (Pop) Slepkas (1877-1956), who also owned the Jewel Theater which is listed on CT, bought the theatre and it was remodeled and modeled after Tulsa’s Ritz Theatre, in the Atmospheric-style with floating clouds (with a “steropticon” cloud machine), twinkling stars, stained glass lights and cut-velvet upholstered seats. With a balcony and orchestra pit. It reopened in 1932. Much of the theatre’s orignal decor still remains, Painted stage flats and scenery, remnants of vaudeville days, are used in local pagents and plays. The 1921 hand-painted curtain, lights and original seats also remain. The dressing rooms remain as a yearbook for the theatre with signatures on the walls dating from the early 20s to the present. The Crystal is one of very few historical theatres left in State of Oklahoma.

Pop turned the managenent of the Crystal and Jewel over to his son Bill Slepka. Bill was once said to be the the youngest playhouse execuitive in the United States. Bill Slepka brought Hollywood to Okemah. In the 1930s Bill ran six shows a week, changing bills daily, vaudeville and pictures. He charged from 10 to 25 cents, which sometimes included dancing troupes and dramas. He added a CinemScope Screen in 1954. He retired in the 1970’s.

In the early 80s the Crystal was purchased by Mark Smyth. The theatre was in dire need of attention, which Smyth gave by painting, repairing and adding a PIPE ORGAN to the theatre. Anyone know what kind of pipe organ and what happebed to it?

In 1995, new owners Johnny and Kristy Lesly, added surround sound, new projection equipment and made needed repairs, taking care to restore the theatre leaving as many of the original characteristics of the building in place as possible.

The Crystal continued as a movie house and then into the the twenty-first century when it closed.

On May 11, 2010, The Community Improvement Association (CIA) signed an aggreement with Donnie Williamson to purchase the Crystal. Williamsom generously agreed to sell the theater for $55,000, well below the $125,000 appraisal Williamson obtained when he purchaed the Crystal. The CIA secured finacing that included an additional $15,000 to make repairs to the building in order for it to be used. The CIA is comprised of leaders from many civic groups in Okemah, such as the leaders from the Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Woody Guthrie Coalition, American Legion, History Center, City of Okemah, Okemah Schools and the Ministrial Alliance which meet once a month to discuss the activities that are ongoing in Okemah. The majority of groups represented on the board of the CIA made pledges to help with the cost of purchasing the Crystal Theatre. The CIA has taken the initiative to keep the Historic Crystal Theatre in good repair. The Crystal is home to many performers during the Woody Guthrie Celebration each July.






skyvue on July 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Okemah’s a very small town, Judy, but the theatre’s on the main drag, such as it is. There should be plenty of parking—on side streets if nothing else. You may have to park two or three blocks away, but otherwise, it shouldn’t be an issue.

judydrake11 on July 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I’m wondering what the parking situation for the theater is. We’ll be there this Wednesday evening to see Arlo Guthrie. Coming from Phoenix, AZ.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on July 7, 2012 at 9:56 am

In 1931 Anton (Pop) Slepka (1877-1956) purchased the theater. The theater was later managed by his son Bill Slepka. They also had the Jewel Theatre in Okemah.

Okemah is named for Chief Okemah. Born in Okemah 100 years ago on July 14, 1912 was famed folk-singer Woody Guthrie “THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND”. His son is Arlo Gurthie “RIDING ON THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS.

CT can always use photos, new and old, inside and out, and more info.

Chief Bob Jensen
Manteno, Illinois

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on July 4, 2012 at 7:52 am








kkt2101 on April 20, 2012 at 9:14 am

I am proud to announce that the Crystal Theatre is back open for business. We open tonight (4-20-12) at 7 p.m. with the movie starting at 7:30 p.m. Our feature is Mirror Mirror

seymourcox on April 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Okemah is birthplace and childhood home to activist songwriter Woody Guthrie (1912 – 1967)
and Arlo Guthrie’s version
View link

kkt2101 on May 25, 2010 at 8:20 am

The Crystal is currently not showing movies, however, a civic organization, Okemah Community Improvement Association, just purchased the theater to help restore and save it. The borrowed $15,000 extra for repairs. Unfortunately they did not know the roof was is such bad condition. They are putting on a new rubber roof, which will never have to be fixed again, and it cost $23,000. They are trying to raise the remainder of the money. Currently donations are accepted through PayPal at, or on the Save the Crystal Facebook page. Also donations can be mailed to: Okemah CIA, P.O. Box 165, Okemah, Ok 74859. Okemah CIA is a 501©3 non-profit organzation.

skyvue on December 9, 2009 at 9:19 am

Can anyone tell me the current the status of the Crystal? Is it still showing movies?

raybradley on October 8, 2009 at 11:13 am

From the Okemah Public Library comes this detailed history of the Crystal Theatre -
View link

seymourcox on September 28, 2009 at 6:29 am

Thank you! That helps a whole lot. It was further up the hill than I thought. Now, if I can only figure out which building housed the former Jewel Theatre …

seymourcox on September 27, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Just tracked the hilltop building in question on google maps. The entire northside of the street has been cleared, and the possible theatre was replaced by a 1960s style building. Okemah sure has an old west look.
That building called the Oasis across the street from the Crystal Theatre (in the 1930 snapshot) looks like a theatre also. Still, it may have been a saloon.

seymourcox on September 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Thank you! Tthis information is most interesting because the Jewel Drive-In entranceway has a marquee with an upright sign that looks as if it might have come from another theatre.
Wish I could get a a better enlargement of that 1930 photo as I suspect the theatre visible on top of the hill may be the (first) Jewel.

seymourcox on September 26, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Wasn’t the Jewel a drive-in theatre?

seymourcox on September 26, 2009 at 11:16 am

In that 1930 shot (posted 4/28/07) there appears to be another theatre in the distant photo center.
Okemah was hometown to controversial songwriter/artist Woody Guthrie. Some reports claim Woody earned extra spending money by painting movie posters for local early day cinemas.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on March 10, 2008 at 11:27 pm

A 1984 photo of the Crystal Theater in Okemah.

seymourcox on April 28, 2007 at 10:56 am

On photo left of this c1930s snapshot can be seen the Crystal marquee and upright sign.

xxx on April 9, 2006 at 8:01 am

Would love to see photos of the Cyrstal lobby & auditorium!

brentclarkf on August 10, 2005 at 5:28 pm

The Crystal is a working movie theatre running on a regular schedule! In fact, for the weekend of August 12, 2005 the Crystal is showing “Stealth”. From time to time, the Crystal does host other events but is certainly also a movie theater. The Crystal features a wonderful red and white neon marquee as well as some interesting vintage advertising in the lobby area. In addition, the Crystal has has some beautiful hanging light fixtures. I have some great photos to post asap. The phone number for the Crystal is (918) 623-1253.

atmos on August 7, 2005 at 10:13 pm

Several websites list the theatre as being built in 1921 and that it was an atmospheric.It currently has 598 seats.