Safford Theatre

Main Street,
Safford, AZ 85546

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Previously operated by: Louis F. Long Circuit

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Ole San Carlos theather Coolidge,Arizona

In May of 1911, the Airdome Theatre opened up for its first performance. It was located next to the Best Drug Store on Main Street, and was open air overhead with some facade on the street. Thomas Malcom was the proprietor, and by October 1911, he had decided to make the place a winter theatre by enclosing the lot with an iron building and roof. He inclined the floor and added stoves to heat the theatre during cold winter evenings.

In March of 1912, Mr Malcolm sold the Safford Theatre the Charles S. Gilpin. Mr Gilpin was a rancher from Sulphur Springs valley, and a former resident of Safford. He planned on changing the film choice three times a week.

The first talking movie came to the Safford Theatre on September 6, 1913, directly from the Unique Theatre in El Paso, Texas. This process did not include the sound embedded on the film, which was a later accomplishment, but was recorded on a seperate disc that played at the same time as the film.

In August of 1915, Mr Gilpin contracted the remodel of the Safford Theatre to Arthur Jacobson of Tucson. Plans called for a brick building with a frontage of 25 feet and a depth of 80 feet. The inside walls were to be plastered, stenciled and panelled. The front would be 20 feet in height and will have a stucco finish with an arch extending the full width of the building and electric lights overhead. It was to have 200 opera seats of the latest pattern with hat racks and side arms.

The theatre was sold to a Mr. George Marshall and Mr. Clarke before October 1919. when they appeared as proprietors in the theatre advertisement. By June 1920, Mr. Marshall was listed as lone proprietor. In July 1920, the owners were listed as Marshall & Merrill. At this time another remodeling was undertaken. Plans called for and extension of 35 feet to the building. The front would include a lobby and a fire proof operating room. 225 opera chairs were added.

In 1926, Mr. Louis F. Long moved from Wilcox to Safford and bought half an interest in the Safford Theatre from Mr. Jacobson.

During the 1950’s, the Safford Theatre showed mostly monster and early science fiction films. In its final years of operation, Mexican and Hispanic movies were shown.

When the Safford Theatre closed it had a total of 625 seats. In 2019 it is undergoing a restoration.

Contributed by Danny Haralson

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm

A half interest in the Safford Theatre was acquired by Louis Long in 1926, according to an article about him in the May 14, 1949, issue of Boxoffice. It was Louis Long’s first venture into exhibition in Arizona. His older brother, J.G. Long, had been operating theaters in other parts of Arizona since 1919.

Safford was for many years the headquarters of the Long circuit, which had grown to 18 theater by 1939. After 1940, Long formed a partnership with Griffith Theatres which lasted a number of years. By 1945, he was operating 40 theaters.

Long also operated a theater called the Ramona at Safford. I’ve only found it mentioned in 1942 and 1949. Perhaps it was an earlier name for the Gila Theatre, which I’ve found mentioned in Boxoffice no earlier than 1951.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 2, 2009 at 10:32 pm

I just found a reference to the Gila Theatre at Safford in the August 14, 1948, issue of Boxoffice, so disregard my speculation that it was a later name for the Ramona Theatre.

DavidZornig on October 9, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Status should be changed to Restoring. Facebook page for the Safford Theatre. Lots of photos including vintage ones.

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