By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: July 2009
Amberla Tepe, office manager, and Stephanie LaFevers, executive director, invite you to celebrate the past, present and future of the Circle Cinema.
It was July 15, 1928. A modest neighborhood community theater called the Circle Cinema opened at 12 S. Lewis in Tulsa’s first suburban shopping center, Kendall Whittier. Moviegoers rode bikes or walked to the ticket window near the street to see “Across the Atlantic” and seek relief from the summer heat.
Fast forward 81 years, and a big birthday bash on July 15 will celebrate the theater’s past, present and future significance in Tulsa. The public is welcome, free of charge, to a special screening of “Oklahoma Crude,” to enjoy a piece of birthday cake and to see how the Circle has proudly come full circle in its life.
A checkered history includes family entertainment, western serials, James Bond features, blue movies, Hispanic films and approximately 10 “dark” years when only pigeons entered the theater, whose marquee featured the words “For Sale.”
In 2002, the Circle Cinema Foundation was formed to purchase the building and breathe new life into the theater as a nonprofit cinema and film arts organization. Executive Director Stephanie LaFevers says that the landmark theater, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now focuses on educational venues that include documentaries, independent films, foreign and classic films, and related events. “They’re films that make you think,” explains LaFevers. “Films that educate, enlighten and entertain.”
This Circle Cinema seal was recently discovered on the original terrazzo floor.
A large construction project is underway to create two additional modern screens at the Circle, along with the reinstallation of the theater’s pipe organ. The building’s façade provides no clue to the demolition that took down all interior walls from the original theater. In May, workers uncovered a decorative Circle Cinema seal on the original lobby terrazzo floor that had long been out of sight and out of mind. A future phase will add laptop connectivity for big screen presentations during business meetings or for large school groups.
But there is one thing that high technology has not and will not change at the Circle. The restored neon marquee that stands as a beacon above the theater still requires hand insertion of letters. It’s perhaps the only remaining task from the past at the only remaining historical movie theater continuing to operate in Tulsa.
A special Walk of Fame in front of the theater honors film industry celebrities with Oklahoma ties. Sidewalk medallions pay tribute to James Garner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ron Howard, Jennifer Jones, Roy Clark and Mary Kay Place, to name a few.
The Circle also showcases art that ranges from a local level to worldwide recognition. They partner with Tulsa Public Schools and the University of Tulsa to further the interest and development of numerous arts amd education programs.
On July 11, in partnership with Philbrook Museum of Art, the Circle will welcome Christo and Jeanne-Claude, known around the world for their 2005 project “The Gates.” The two artists completed one of the biggest temporary public work-of-art projects in the country by using free-hanging fabric panels to highlight 23 miles of footpaths in New York’s Central Park.
“We’re pleased with what we have done and where we are going,” says LaFevers, “but we still need just under a million dollars to complete the project.” Support can come in the way of tax-deductible donations, large or small, foundation memberships – even sponsors for the new adjustable seats that will be installed.
Discover the new Circle Cinema at the 81st birthday celebration. If you can’t make it then, plan to visit soon. Plenty of free parking is available behind the building, across the street, and on the street. The Circle is open seven days a week at various times. Call 592-FILM (3456) for show times. To make a donation, call the business office at (918) 585-3456.
What’s Coming in July
July 10: “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” with Anvil the band opening night
July 11: (at Philbrook) “The Gates,” Q & A with special guests Christo and Jeanne Claude
July 12: “The Gates”
July 14: “Laurel and Hardy’s Big Business,” an annual outdoor Starlight Bands concert at the river - FREE!
July 15: Circle Cinema’s 81st Birthday Party – FREE! Opening of Tulsa Girls Art School exhibit – FREE!
July 17: “Tyson,” with James “Quick” Tillis to talk about his battle with Tyson
July 18: Circle Cinema’s first-ever slumber party featuring cult films
July 24: “Summer Hours”
Deanna Rebro has worked in the publishing industry 30+ years, including eight years writing for Value News. She has also worked in real estate for the past six years. Deanna graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio with a B.A. in Journalism. Outside of work, she serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for Pet Adoption League. “Every story I write is a learning experience,” she said.