Chieftain Theatre

3450 SW 29th Street,
Oklahoma City, OK 73119

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Showing 20 comments

whorton on November 1, 2017 at 2:37 pm

It would be so nice if someone could come along and delete the long dead links to roadsideoklahoma, and other nonsensical isolated comments.

rivest266 on April 3, 2014 at 2:19 pm

August 30th, 1951 grand opening ad in photo section.

seymourcox on January 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Very sad, and shabby!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Thanks for the info,seymour cox,gotta admit that marquee on the picture looks sad.

seymourcox on June 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Photos can’t seem to capture what the structure actually looked like. In real life it was quite a nice cinema. There was a much larger streetside marquee located on the corner intersection.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 6, 2010 at 11:45 am

What lousy marquee for a theatre,about the worse i ever saw.Surprized it ever did business.Surely, they put something up better.

seymourcox on June 6, 2010 at 11:39 am

Seen here are typical examples of a vintage beefcake films;

seymourcox on May 1, 2009 at 10:31 am

I’m certain the Chieftain Cinema was not a twin when I went there during the winter of ‘77. Just a guess, but probably adjoining retail footage was converted into another auditorium, rather than twiining the original cinema.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 28, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Boxoffice Magazine’s reports of the seating capacity of the Chieftain differ. The December 22, 1951, issue said that it seated “about 730,” while the December 29 issue gave the figure as 750.

According to the April 25, 1966, issue of Boxoffice, Barton Theatres operated the Chieftain until that year, when all 18 of its houses were leased to a newly-formed company called Greater Oklahoma City Amusements, headed by Chicago exhibitor Lewis L. Ingram.

The September 9, 1974, issue of Boxoffice says that the Chieftain was being taken over by Okemah Shanbour. By 1975,it was being operated by Eldon Claybourne Christian, the one who was arrested for showing the movie “Sexual Customs in Scandinavia.”

I’ve been unable to find out when the house was twinned. The last mention of the Chieftain in Boxoffice is from 1976.

rivest266 on October 11, 2008 at 2:14 pm

This theatre opened on August 30th, 1951

Rodney on December 29, 2006 at 2:17 pm

These recent comments have caused quite a twitter up and down Oklahoma City’s Gay Mile. Those faded glamour boys of yesteryear perch around gay bars chattering about how festive those Sunday Knight gay shows were. Of course every one of them claim to have been there.
Actually, with all this hoopla I was quite surprised to find out what a short time period these programs lasted. Still, judging from web postings provided by Lolly Pop, if those male strippers were more magnificent than those eye candy beefacke models then it surely must have been something amazing to behold!

missmelbatoast on December 1, 2006 at 6:15 pm

Admission tickets were five bucks. The Chieftain seated probably 900, and for the first few weeks these shows played to rowdy packed houses full of sreaming queens.
As the novelty wore off attendance began to steadily dip. To boost sagging ticket sales 50’s and 60’s era beefcake models were brought in to pose onstage while slides from their glory days were shown, but compared against those brawny young stud strippers who were also in the same show the aged adonises looked old and outdated. During the last few performances there were more people on stage than in the audience. All in all these gay pageants probably ran a total of three months, maybe a bit longer.
I performed my hootchy momma routine in the first show and the in the last. What a contrast in attendance.

JohnMcConnel on December 1, 2006 at 3:49 pm

How much admission did the Chieftain charge, and what size audiences did they attract for the gay programs?

missmelbatoast on November 25, 2006 at 2:37 pm

I was truly sorry to read about Miss Rotunda’s health problems. His kindness, generousity, and talent are as big as his heart. I’ll remember him in my prayers!
Until these comments were posted I had forgotten all about those fun gay shows at the Chieftain. If I remeber correctly, “Sunday Knight” extravaganzas were produced by Miss Arnold Lee who had formerly owned the popular Roadhouse Show Club in the Northeast sector, next door to Frontier City. Miss Lee was testing the waters to find out if a big time drag show bar would go over on OKC’s Southside. As it turned out these glittering spectacles were a huge hit, but only a flash in the pan, because the area proved to be too dangerous.
For a couple months after the gay night shows ceased the Chieftain retained those brawny male strippers for “ladies night” programs.

JohnMcConnel on November 24, 2006 at 5:33 pm

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.

JohnMcConnel on November 24, 2006 at 4:11 pm

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.

seymourcox on November 22, 2006 at 5:36 pm

On a cold, snowy, winter weekend during the late 1970’s I drove from Tulsa down to OKC to visit a dear friend. On Sunday night he took me to the Chieftain Cinema.
The Chieftain’s futuristic interior looked like it came right out of a “Jetsons” cartoon.
The first half of the gay entertainment program consisted of a “Laurel & Hardy” short, a mildly erotic, nude male wrestling film, and a Betty Boop cartoon.
Then, a loveable, over weight drag queen, who introduced himself as Miss Rotunda, stepped onstage to emcee the live portion of the show. Miss Rotunda expertly introduced the other drag acts, a magic show, and three brawny male strippers who looked as if they’d come right off a downtown street corner. These guys were dangerously good looking, definately rough trade.
Miss Rotunda’s finale stopped the show with her most amusing, uprouriously funny comedy routine, a first rate performance!

raybradley on November 11, 2006 at 8:40 pm

After the above mentioned court battle was settled the Chieftain Cinema usually played it safe by showing soft core porn, but sometimes a hard core flick was slipped in as one half of a double feature.
For a while the Chieftain found great success by offering campy Sunday night programs geared toward OKC’s gay community. These were billed as “Sungay Knights” when vintage posing strap beefcake films were screened, along with live stage shows starring lusty male strippers and drag queens. Alas, the novelty eventually wore off and gay festivities returned to the Gay Mile located along NW 39th St at Pennsylvania Ave.

xxx on March 26, 2006 at 1:12 pm

Casual inspection of Google Satellite Map function located at the top of this page shows that the Chieftain Cinema still stands a few doors left of 3450 SW 29th St, the auditorium can clearly be seen protruding above the West end of the long strip mall.
Built in 1951 to be the Westside anchor for a suave International Styled shopping center, the sleek Chieftain was 1950’s modernist in every way.
As mentioned above, indeed the Chieftain operated as a controversial skin flick house in the early 1970’s, and again was a porn theater throughout the 1980’s.