The Coleman Theatre: Celebrating 90 Years!

This is such a special place, and we are so fortunate to still have this jewel.—Shannon Duhon, Coleman Theatre managing director

By Kathleen Swift 

Photos courtesy Coleman Theatre

A 90th birthday is something to celebrate, and that is what they are doing at the Coleman Theatre in Miami, Oklahoma. The Coleman Theatre opened April 18, 1929, to a full house of 1,600, each paying $1 per ticket. Today, the Spanish Colonial-style exterior marks the theater along Route 66. Each year, the Coleman attracts visitors from across the country and from around the world.

Shannon Duhon, managing director of the Coleman Theatre, reports around 20,000 people, in addition to the 30,000 who attend events, visit the theater with its stunning Louis XV interior each year.

“People from Europe are especially surprised to see a theater like this with its gargoyles, dolphins, cherubs and faces in Miami, Oklahoma,” Duhon said. “They compare it to something they might find in London or Paris and tell us they didn’t expect to see something like the Coleman in ‘our quaint little village.’”

The Coleman Theatre celebrates its 90th anniversary Thursday, April 18, with a special showing of The Wizard of Oz, which turns 80 this year.

Festivities begin at 6:30 pm with Coleman Theatre house organist Dennis James, the master of “The Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ, providing pre-movie entertainment. He will play a selection of music coinciding with the film.

A special welcome and singing of “Happy Birthday” takes place at 6:50 pm along with the cutting of the official Coleman Theatre birthday cake. Birthday cake is available to those attending after the movie.

The movie begins at approximately 7:10 pm. James will also provide organ music during intermission and after the movie. Admission is $1 in honor of opening night prices from April 18, 1929.

Volunteers from Miami Little Theatre will dress as characters from the movie and will be available to have their pictures taken with families. Adults and children are asked to dress as their favorite character from the movie to compete for prizes that will be given away that night.

“What a tremendous milestone for the Coleman Theatre,” said Duhon. “This is such a special place, and we are so fortunate to still have this jewel. We still have it because so many dedicated people worked so hard for so long to save and restore this theater.

“This celebration is as much about thanking them for their efforts as it is a birthday celebration. I hope we never forget what they did for this city in restoring the Coleman Theatre and that we are up to the challenge of keeping it going.”

The anniversary celebration serves as the kickoff for a new fundraising campaign for the theater, named “$90 To Celebrate 90 Years.” The purpose of the campaign is to generate much-needed funds to upgrade the theater’s sound and lighting systems. Duhon said the theater’s current sound and lighting systems have served the theater well, but the time has come to make significant upgrades to both.

“As times change, so, too, does technology,” Duhon said. “We have reached a point in which the Coleman Theatre must embrace that new technology if we are to continue as a performing arts center. Our current theatrical lighting and sound equipment has served us well for many years, but to meet the technical demands of today, an upgrade is necessary.”

All funds collected during the “$90 To Celebrate 90 Years” campaign will be placed in a special account in the Coleman Theatre budget and earmarked for sound and lighting equipment upgrades only.

“It is an ambitious campaign but one that is necessary,” Duhon said. “We are asking for $90, but feel free to give what you can. We will certainly accept more, but we will graciously accept any amount given.”

For more information about the anniversary celebration, to obtain a special commemorative ticket for the event or the “$90 To Celebrate 90 Years” campaign, contact the theater at 918.540.2425 or by email at [email protected].