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About the Book

Going to the movies has always been special. Tulsa’s first theater opened in 1906 with a lineup of silent reels and live vaudeville entertainment. During the next two decades, dozens of movie houses opened downtown, including the “Big Four:” the Ritz, Orpheum, Majestic, and Rialto. As Tulsa grew, neighborhood theaters, including the Brook, Delman, and Will Rogers, became favorites. Drive-in theaters soon followed around the city boundaries. In 1965, Tulsa’s first multiplex—the Boman Twin—opened.

Tulsans experienced blockbuster films at these theaters with multiple screens and increasingly smaller auditoriums. Tulsa also hosted star-studded movie premieres. Among them were The Outsiders and the 1949 premiere of Tulsa, featuring the biggest parade and crowd in Tulsa’s history. Perhaps the most well-known theater—the Dreamland on Black Wall Street—was destroyed during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although it was rebuilt, images of the Dreamland in ruins are iconic.

Thank you to everyone who shared their memories, images, and artifacts! 


Press Release

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The Ritz, Orpheum, Majestic, and Rialto are familiar names to many Tulsans who grew up in a time when downtown movie palaces still existed. Others remember the early neighborhood theaters like the Delman, Will Rogers, and the Brook. Those theater memories, and many others, are captured in the new book Tulsa Movie Theaters that will be released Monday, July 19.

Tulsa Movie Theaters, published by Arcadia as part of the “Images of America” series, is co-written by the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum and Sand Springs native Steve Clem, who recently retired from Public Radio Tulsa and is also the author of a popular book about Tulsa’s KAKC Radio.  According to Clem, “Tulsa had such wonderful movie theaters and now, sadly, most of them are gone. We hope documenting these entertainment houses will help preserve the rich history of Tulsa’s movie theaters for future generations and bring back the readers’ own cinematic memories.”

Tulsa Movie Theaters is filled with extensive information and more than 200 images of movie theaters throughout the Tulsa area. Theaters included range from the earliest, silent-era film houses and glamourous movie palaces to drive-ins, multiplexes, and even current theaters. A number of Tulsans past and present contributed their own memories and memorabilia for the project.

Research uncovered nearly 100 theaters in the Tulsa area. The most challenging theaters to track down were the earliest, short-term movie houses but also, surprisingly, many of the theaters that opened after 1965. As Maggie Brown, Director of Exhibits for the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, explained “it is often more recent history that has not made its way into museum collections yet. People don’t think of the last few decades as being “old enough” to preserve. The result is that the mid to late 20th century often presents a challenging hole in information and artifacts.”

Brown also shared that “the museum’s mission is not only to collect and preserve Tulsa’s history for future generations but also to share those stories with the community. Interest in movie theaters has long made it a popular topic of programs and exhibits at the museum. This book provides an especially fun opportunity to share local history and personal recollections with Tulsans.”

Wondering if your favorite theater is included? Author Clem explains “this book celebrates every era of Tulsa cinema, from the tiny storefront theaters of the silent film era, to the downtown movie palaces. The stylish Art Deco neighborhood and small town film houses, to the drive-in theaters that dotted the Tulsa landscape in every direction. The multiplexes that hosted the blockbusters of the 70s, 80s and 90s, to the stadium-seating comfort of the new millennium. If you have ever gone to the movies in Tulsa, chances are that theater’s history is in this book.”

Tulsa Movie Theaters will be available for purchase beginning July 19th, with a special book release event on Thursday, July 22nd.  That event will be held at the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum and begins at 6:00. The authors will be there to discuss Tulsa Movie Theaters and copies will be available for sale.  Books will also be available for during the museum’s open hours (Tues-Sat 10-4) for a price of $23.99.  An exhibit on Tulsa movie theaters will open at the museum this fall.

Tulsa Historical Society & Museum