Love Theatre

417 E. 5th Street,
Okmulgee, OK 74447

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The Drew Theatre Theatre was expertly designed in Art Moderne style by a black architect, and owned/operated by a successful black businessman. Pictures were booked to attract a black audience, but white patrons were welcomed.

Operating since the early-1940’s, the Drew Theatre sat on the Northside in the 500 block of E. 5th Street, between N. Delaware Avenue and N. Severs Avenue. The Art Moderne style boxy cream color stucco exterior, with its, moulded geometric accents, could almost be described as Cubist. Slender upper story windows were engineered in glass louver design. A v-shaped marquee held three lines of lighted letterboard. The center boxoffice sat inside a recessed cove, flanked by double sheetglass doors. The pretty lobby was dominated by a well stocked concession stand.

Inside the long auditorium two aisles seperated seating areas divided into three equal sections. Cream coloured walls carried the exterior theme of gray moulded accents. Plush draped closed over a good sized screen, with a stage large enough to host live acts.

Advertising could be kept meager since within the African American community word of mouth was the best source for promoting the current picture playing and coming attractions.

When the Love Theatre ceased operation in the early 1960s, it was converted to the Rex Billiard Parlor, offering pool, snooker, and card games. The lobby concession stand continued to thrive during those pool hall days.

Some sources say that after the 1970’s, the building was razed. Although other sources claim only the lobby portion was removed, leaving the auditorium area that now serves as an auto repair garage.

Contributed by Ben Miller

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on August 20, 2006 at 12:13 am

The Rex Theatre is listed in the Film Daily Yearbook:1941 & 1943 editions with 300 seats and (Closed) in both editions. It does not appear in the 1950 edition. Could it have possibly re-opened after 1950 for another 10 years or so?

raybradley
raybradley on August 20, 2006 at 8:45 am

The Rex Theatre was not open during WWII years because it was an idenpendently owned theatre and the owner had enlisted.
When possible all black cast films were booked for the African American community in Okmulgee. Whenever black films were not available independent product was exhibited, such as Monogram, Tiffany, PRC, Qaulity, etc.
Rex seldom ran newspaper or radio ads, but instead relied heavily on word of mouth from a loyal fan base.
Ed Swallow, a great guy, once told me how Griffith Theatres tried every trick in the book to gain control over this independent theatre, but somehow the black gentleman who owned the Rex bravely held on to his one and only movie house.
Rex was a medium sized theatre that surely held seating capacity far greater than 300. At any rate, movies were shown there up to 1961.

Okie
Okie on August 20, 2006 at 9:22 am

According to my notes most everything Mr. Miller has reported on Okmulgee theatre history is correct, -except- for the Rex Theatre address. The Rex sat on East FIFTH Street, near North Severs Avenue, not E. Seventh St.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on August 20, 2006 at 10:01 am

Cosmic Ray..Many thanks for clarfying why the Rex Theatre was closed during the WWII years.

I have a copy of the excellent book ‘African American Theater Buildings’-An Illustrated Historical Directory 1900-1955 by Eric Ledell Smith which only lists two (African American) theatres in Okmulgee, OK. The Dreamland Theatre was a black vaudeville theatre operating in the early 1920’s and the Drew Theatre, 417 E. 5th Street a 312 seat capacity Picture Theatre that is listed in the Film Daily Yearbook;1949-1955 editions as being a Negro theatre.

Okie Dawg…Thanks for your input. If you are correct about the address of the Rex Theatre at E. 5th Street, then I think we can presume that it was later known as the Drew Theatre.

Okie
Okie on August 20, 2006 at 12:16 pm

You’re most welcome, Ken.
This theatre was on the North once thriving black business district.
Actually, it looks as if the theatre name may have been visa-versa, originally called Drew Theatre, then Rex. After it closed as a movie house the marquee letterboard was covered over with a glass sign that read Rex Billiard Parlor.
Do you have an address for the Dreamland?

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on August 20, 2006 at 12:51 pm

It was the Rex Theatre in 1941 & 1943 and the Drew Theatre listed in F.D.Y. from 1949-1955. Maybe new owners who turned it back into a billiard hall prefered the old name. Either way we need an aka Drew Theatre and an amendment to the address on here.

Sorry, no address is given for the Dreamland Theatre Details given are….Vaudeville house. Owner and Manager in 1921:Mrs Lola T. Williams (African American) In April 1921, the vaudeville show featured ‘Fishers’ Fun Festival'. References for these details come from Jackson, 2List of Coloured Theaters & Attractions", Billboard-August 6th 1921, Cahn-Julius Chan-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide, Hill-Pages from the Harlem Renaissance, Work-Negro Yearbook 1921-1922

Okie
Okie on August 20, 2006 at 1:28 pm

Lola Williams owned the Dreamland Theatre in Tulsa.
The Williams Family also operated other Tulsa movie houses. Along with Okmulgee’s Dreamland, it seems to have been a black theatre chain.

Okie
Okie on August 24, 2006 at 7:55 pm

Ken; The phone rang while I was entering above comments. What I ment to say was- I wonder if Lola Williams also owned the Tulsa Dreamland Theatre.

raybradley
raybradley on November 25, 2006 at 7:05 pm

According to an Inca Theatre posting from Symco, and above comment from Ken Roe, this house was known during its life time as the Drew, Love, and Rex.
Good photos for this theatre and the Dreamland could probably be found in old yearbooks at the school library or public library.

seymourcox
seymourcox on August 6, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Oklahoma Historical Society shares these exterior/interior shots of the Rex Theatre. Actually these are not images of the Rex listed on this page. REX (AKA-Cozy) depicted in these b&w pictures are of a theatre on Sixth (Main) Street, Okmulgee, OK.
To view images type in “okmulgee rex”, then go search…
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