I’m excited about my upcoming film showing at this great theater!
Welcome back. While traveling through several communities last week I found a true Oklahoma treasure that you may not have heard of. Built in 1929, alongside the famous Route 66 highway, the Coleman Theatre in Miami, Oklahoma was designed to be the most elaborate entertainment venue between Kansas City and Dallas. The theatre was constructed by George L. Coleman, Sr., a native of Miami who made a fortune in the mining industry and was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1983. I learned all this before I got there as well as the fact that the Coleman has operated continuously for 88 years and has never gone “black” as it is called in the industry when a theater shuts down.
From the street when I saw the Spanish style exterior, the spiral staircase and bell tower on one side and the twin bell towers on the other side I knew I was in for something special. Entering the building through the magnificent front doors, one is immediately mesmerized by the beauty of the carved winding staircase which lead to the balcony level and the two sculptures that point the way. Giant chandeliers hang from arched ceilings and the walls are decorated with carving of gargoyles, dolphins and masked figures along the hallways that lead to another set of large wooden doors. When the doors are open the entire theater lays before you and it is a truly breathtaking sight. I would never have guessed that a small Oklahoma town with a population of only 13,570 residents would house such a treasure. For me it was like finding gold and while I was admiring the historic stage I discovered even more.
It was a vintage pipe organ called “the Mighty Wurlitzer” and friends they are rare and beautiful both to listen to and to look at. It was a special experience to see one up close. True vaudeville theaters from this era had these organs to accompany performances but most closed down over the years when movie theaters became popular. Fortunately, the Coleman and its Mighty Wurlitzer have survived.
I also learned that the Coleman heirs donated the theater to the City of Miami in 1989 and a not for profit organization was formed to manage it. Through a successful fundraising campaign, the group secured grants and individual donations which allowed them to restore the exterior of the main structure and then replace the carpet, clean and paint the inside to bring all of the beautiful details of the building back to their former glory and what a great job they have done.
As their guest book shows, tourists from around the world who are traveling Route 66 make a point of stopping at the theatre and like me I’m sure they marvel at what they see. From the second story balcony to the fancy seating everything at the Coleman is top of the line and it is easy to envision the many famous actors who appeared on their stage. Will Rogers played there to a full house of course. Tom Mix, Bing Crosby, the magician Harry Black and even Jim Thorpe had an act which was presented at the Coleman and on January 14th Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes will be shown there as well. What an honor it is for sure.
But there’s more to the Coleman than the theater itself as a large ballroom adjoins the main building. Folks, you can rent this space and it comes complete with a pocket garden containing a fountain and benches which are all designed in the same style as the theater. It is elegant to say the least.
Put a stop at the Coleman Theatre on your list of things to do in 2017 and take one of their free guided tours of the building which also bring you behind the scenes. Coming up next week: who was George Coleman, the man who had the vision and the money to build such a fine theater in what was at the time a fairly remote part of the country.
As for me, there will also be a command showing of my film on January 15th at the Poncan Theatre in Ponca city, Oklahoma which is often called the sister theater of the Coleman. If you haven’t been to the Poncan it’s a must see as well.
Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road…..