Theatre History

The Sooner Theatre opened her doors for the first time in 1929 as the first movie theatre in the region built to show "talking pictures." Local architect Harold Gimeno spared no expense while building the Spanish Gothic Style building, spending over $200,000. 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 ceiling is adorned with 252 Spanish coat-of-arms, which were hand painted by the Patricio Gimeno, the architect's father. The theatre even boasted refrigerated air and cooled water fountains.

The audience gasped in surprise when the first "talkie," Alias Jimmy Valentine played; 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 would not last. Luckily, motion pictures have lasted, and so did the Sooner Theatre, at least until the 1970s. It was during this time that movie theatres became multiplexes and the single screened Sooner just couldn't keep up with the demand. In 1975, the Sooner Theatre closed with Attack of the Amazons. It seemed that the only future visitor the Sooner Theatre could look forward to was the wrecking ball.

A dedicated group of citizens refused to lose the theater, and appealed to the City of Norman under the aegis of The Sooner Theatre, Inc. The City agreed to purchase the theatre and lease her to them for a dollar per year. After the first phase of restoration, Norman's own "Grand Dame" opened her doors again in 1982 as a community performing arts center. The Sooner Theatre began producing it's own seasons of productions and concerts in the early 2000s. An educational program that began in 2003 with one summer camp of 31 students, has grown into The Studio of The Sooner Theatre, located directly across Main Street from the theatre. The theatre is listed on both the State and National Registry of Historic Places, and produces a full season of live theatrical productions and concerts, and includes a robust performing arts education program with almost 1000 students enrolled in more than 55 different school year classes and summer camps. Visit the Sooner Theatre today to find out why she's so special!