West Park Cinema

6421 N. MacArthur Boulevard,
Oklahoma City, OK 73132

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OKCdoorman
OKCdoorman on August 3, 2013 at 10:22 pm

An entire first-night screening’s box office take for Bruce Lee’s ‘last’ official film GAME OF DEATH (a cobbled-together action film incorporating 30 minutes of previously-unseen Lee footage) was ruined when a well-meaning but naïve West Park usher inaccurately believed the film was supposed to be the competing posthumous Lee-written film CIRCLE OF IRON starring David Carradine (which had been released 6 months earlier) and convinced the manager to have the marquee for Auditorium 2 changed to the wrong title. When customers walked up to the theater for the first 7pm showing and saw the completely different listing from the advertised title many of them walked off shaking their heads or asking the staff if they had a ‘Bruce Lee’ film or not showing (the mistake was corrected during the second show).

By early 1978 it was felt operational standards at the West Park had slipped so badly that an emergency mandatory group meeting (excluding janitors) was scheduled for a Saturday morning. Groggy employees were greeted with a host of citations including tardiness, fraternization with non-employees during business hours, incorrect inventory (concession girls had been required to count items such a soda cups weekly), and popcorn literally coming out the color of bright red orange. In conclusion the staff was ordered to sign a hand-written attendance sheet hanging next to Auditorium 1’s projector verifying they understood the meeting’s new goals. As the list hung largely unsigned for week after week, one of the projectionists—perhaps tiring of the list hanging in the area of his equipment—added signatures of several ‘West Park employees’ solemnly pledging to the cause of flawless theatrical presentation; the names included “I.M. Broke” and “I.M. Dedd.”

OKCdoorman
OKCdoorman on July 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Tapes on the West Park’s 8-track player for broadcast into both theaters' sound systems during intermissions included soundtracks to the films GREASE and THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, Gino Vannelli’s “Brother to Brother,” and Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good.”

Hoboes were an especially vexing problem to OKC retail business owners during the 1970s, as a huge downtown urban renewal program begun in the late 1960s spearheaded by Mayor Patience Latting not only destroyed several longstanding cinemas there such as the Cooper Cinerama and Criterion (which until then had provided comfortable sleeping places for them when they couldn’t get into the YMCA), but also pushed bus stop/soup kitchen vagrants more into the suburbs and near-central districts. The West Park’s own regular would have to have been a tallish grey-haired streetperson in his 50s always wearing a brown corduroy jacket even in the hottest weather, who would weekly walk unaccompanied to the mall carrying the latest copies of Variety or the Los Angeles Times, go straight to the theater lobby to purchase a soda, and then cheerily chat up the entire staff for up to a full hour while never buying a single ticket. It is not known if the new West Park owners in late 1979 might have asked him to move on or if he simply moved on his own, but the same vagrant was later a less-regular fixture at the Continental Theater some 3 miles east of the West Park a year or two later—still walking in off the street, still carrying his newspapers, still buying soda, still uninterested in watching a movie—and finally at a major chain bookstore next to the Continental that opened up in the mid-90s, where he could be seen buying his newspapers until the early 2000s. To the last known sighting, he was still in the exact same brown corduroy jacket he was wearing in 1978.

OKCdoorman
OKCdoorman on June 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm

OU’s legendary football squad was sometimes transported en masse to the West Park from Norman, Oklahoma—almost an hour long drive—in case there was a film playing they wanted to see but unavailable closer to campus. Ushers were strictly instructed not to interrupt the team if they got a bit rowdy during a film’s runtime, as it was felt the movie was a way for them to let off steam before the next game. The boisterous admixture of yelled punchlines, earsplitting whistles, seat-slamming, and competitive bursts of intergroup laughter was particularly noticeable during a screening of Sylvester Stallone’s 1978 Hell’s Kitchen wrestling melodrama PARADISE ALLEY, especially the climactic match between actors Lee Canalito and Terry Funk, where the resultant Dolby Atmos-level cheering literally shook the outside lobby. Afterwards, several of the players nicely took the time to meet & thank employees and sign autographs.

Shanbour’s ushers were always issued a long clipboard with an extensive printed call sheet (other company employees had no equivalent itemized form) they were required to sign into and send back to the main office nightly along with their doorway ticket stubs, confirming they’d hourly-inspected both the bathrooms for cleanliness and the auditorium’s temperature gauge readings (using an illuminated flashlight on both room’s sides while the film was running). On Easter evening 1979, in commemoration of the holiday, each doorman donned oversized floppy jackrabbit ears during the 8pm auditorium check.

OKCdoorman
OKCdoorman on June 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Each theater’s screen had a 6 ft. extension concrete stage, which helped with room acoustics.

For whatever reason—either by then-owner Shanbour’s unexplained preference, his subordinates not insisting on an exception, or some obscure Warr Acres municipal code—there was never a marquee of the playing films alongside either the busy MacArthur Blvd. or 63rd streets or on the mall’s sides or even one-sheet posters in other areas of the mall interiors—only a simple listing of “West Park Theater” along with the other mall tenants on a single sign outside, no different than a dentist’s office. Customers were expected to read a newspaper, call the theater, or leave their car and go inside if they wanted to know what was playing.

OKCdoorman
OKCdoorman on June 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Info on the West Park Twin Theater circa 1977-79: Owned at that time by local theater magnate Farris (not “Ferris,” like in Bueller —he hand-signed each paycheck personally) Shanbour (see addl. info on OKC Theaters/”Interstate North Park 7” page). The primary screen was prob. a fairly-wide 400-seater divided by 2 aisles, the other one much more narrow and prob. a 300-seater. Precursor of the deadly-dull 1980s-type ‘cardboard shoebox’ multiplex theater design with plate-glass & aluminum frontage, all-gray/black cement floors in the auditoriums, and red curtain walls for auditoriums (red carpeting on the aisles and lobby). Small lobbies, concession area in center behind the ticket window with plywood wall paneling—you entered the projection booth through the back of concession stand and walked up 3-4 stairs. Projectionists were union all the way so you at least got a professional picture. Non-janitorial support staff was mainly culled from several north OKC high schools outfitted in rayon/polyester uniforms (which needed once a week dry cleaning to defumigate the aroma of popcorn smoke). Nominal concessions but pure coconut oil popcorn, though—and it was a big deal/irritation in 1978 when the menu included nachos (the machine took forever to clean).
Marquee at first tended toward profitable second-run big studio product or nominal low-cost first runners that might generate some quick cash (for some reason the very last 20th Century Fox films by director Robert Altman like A WEDDING or QUINTET ended up there) but by early 1979, and with a full dollar increase in admission prices, the owner was probably already thinking of selling the place (Sample 1978 triple feature: the two Disney WITCH MOUNTAIN films followed by the local premiere of the Christian soaper BORN AGAIN starring Dean Jones—on opening night there was ONE single viewer for the entire 5 hour runtime [not the films’ fault, though—my research shows until summer 1979 all the major studios cut back on production right after STAR WARS got big, a declining theater like the West Park wasn’t going to get the serious A-list releases)]. A projection-TV store salesman from the other side of the mall once half-jokingly complained to the irritation of the manager, ”When you guys first opened you were only charging 3 dollars a ticket and you were showing some pretty good stuff. Now you’re charging 4 dollars and you started showing [expletive deleted].” The theater was sold sometime in Fall 1979 and even though they still were able to retain local screening rights to the first STAR TREK movie and installing stereo sound the place was closed within a few years. One other sad ‘the only person in the audience” story: one day a major snowstorm had literally shut the entire city down but the West Park—like the Post Office—gamely opened for their evening showings as scheduled. When it was clear by almost 7pm that nobody had shown up & no sensible person would be risking death to watch a Richard Dreyfuss double feature of THE GOODBYE GIRL and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS the little 3 person staff was praying that nobody would show up by the 30 minute mark so they could all go home. Of course, sure enough, right after the projectors began running (without the projection bulbs), a lone single male customer happily approached the window, bought his ticket and entered the theater, forcing the theater to light up the projector bulb and guaranteeing the staff a nightmarish 1AM pitch-black drive home on a solid sheet of ice unless he left early. After a full hour, and assuring that an 700 screen duplex was now running a private showing for one single viewer, it was agreed that an usher would go to the customer, apologize deeply for the interruption and that he (the customer) was certainly entitled to stay if he wished, but explaining he was the only ticket holder keeping open the entire theater during a blizzard, and if he’d agree, the West Park would happily refund his money if he’d go home. It worked—and the staff got home alive.

grick55
grick55 on April 5, 2013 at 9:37 pm

shopping center is about half demolished, in process, we’ve been told a WalMart Neighborhood Market will go in there. theatre was in the NW corner of the mall. 2 screens or 4, I’m not sure. I can’t remember if I’d been there more than once, maybe twice.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 19, 2010 at 9:32 am

Thanks for the photo Seymour.

seymourcox
seymourcox on July 19, 2010 at 8:46 am

Here is a photo from Roadside Oklahoma web page,
http://www.roadsideoklahoma.com/node/806

Lauren Durbin
Lauren Durbin on February 21, 2009 at 11:14 am

The address for the post office is:

6421 North Macarthur Boulevard,
Oklahoma City, OK 73132

That at least gives a relative address. I have been to that PO several times, but never realized a theater was near the location.

krcrook
krcrook on February 17, 2009 at 9:41 pm

The West Park was located in West Park Mall, which was really a small enclosed part of a strip center and housed a handful of stores a Post Office branch, a cafeteria, and the theater. I could not tell you its exact dates of its operation, but the first movie I saw there was in 1977 and the last a decade later. The theater and “mall” is still extant, but the whole center has fallen into heavy decline. Very few tenants occupy the center, and it appears the Post Office uses most of the mall now. I would imagine its days are numbered.