The Sooner Theatre opened in 1929, the first movie theatre in the region built to show talking pictures. Local architect Harold Gimeno spared no expense $200,000 constructing the Spanish Gothic building. The 252 Spanish coat-of-arms, displayed on the ceiling, were hand-painted by Patricio Gimeno, the architects father.
Mosaic tile and Italian marble were imported for the project, and a special ladies lounge was installed on the mezzanine level. A soundproof cry-room at the back of the orchestra level accommodated babies. The tinkle of champagne glasses and polite conversation could be heard from the party room in the balcony. The theatre even boasted refrigerated air and cooled water fountains.
The audience gasped when the first talkie, Alias Jimmy Valentine, premiered. The actors were speaking! After working frantically throughout that first show to cue the oversized records with the miles-and-miles of cellophane tape, the projectionist quit in disgust. Moving pictures were too darn complicated and, he predicted, they wouldnt last.
But last they did, and so did the Sooner at least until the 1970s. At that time, movie theatres became multiplexes, and the Sooner was reduced to showing second-run B movies as the public abandoned it for large, multi-screen houses. Attack of the Amazons closed the theatre in 1975. The Sooners only future visitor appeared to be the wrecking ball.
A dedicated group of citizens refused to lose the theatre and, under the aegis of The Sooner Theatre of Norman, Inc., appealed to the city of Norman to have her purchased and leased to them for $1 a year. The facility re-opened in 1982, after its first phase of restoration, as a community performing arts center. Now listed on the State and National Registry of Historic Places, The Sooner Theatre hosts local, regional, and national artists ranging from musical groups to magic shows.
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