California Avenue & Walker Street,
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November 15, 1907, saw the grand opening of Oklahoma City’s massive Civic Theater. With a “form follows function” Prairie style exterior, and a trendy Craftsman interior, the new Civic Theater marked the end of Oklahoma City as a wild west town, and hailed the beginning of an expanding, modern city.
Included in the oversized auditorium were a Steinway concert grand piano and a giant Kimball concert pipe organ. For the next twenty-five years every big show business attraction played the Civic, and there was never a night when something wasn’t booked; circuses, boxing matches, Broadway plays, concerts, grand opera, even indoor base ball games played here. During sweltering summer months the stage became a cool, afternoon ice skating rink with live organ music.
On February 24, 1914, Kodak Film Company sponsored a Snow Ball Dance, and for the first time a motion picture was shown at the Civic Theater.
On Halloween night of 1915 a Mary Pickford movie entitled “Frederick the Cricket” was first on the program for a festive Halloween Ball.
William Fox booked the Civic for the entire month of August, 1918, to screen “Cleopatra”, starring Theda Bara.
Other pictures were featured on the Civic screen, but movie showings were few and far between in the main hall.
By 1937 a booming economy caused the city to outgrew the old Civic Theatre, and dictated a new, 6300 seat, Municipal Auditorium to be built farther north in a more fashionable neighborhood. In 1938 private investors purchased the Civic Theater property for conversion into the Trianon Ballroom. As a dance hall the facility was popular and operated for another twenty-years.
Sitting vacant a few years, the old Civic building eventually became a run down eye sore, and was torn down in the mid 1960’s.
More research is needed to confirm this, but it is possible that Peoples Theatre (a small movie house) was also located within the Civic Theatre walls.
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