July 12--The Circle Cinema turns 85 on Monday, and it looks great for its age.
Tulsa's venerable art-house theater is ready to show off several new features, as well as celebrate its long history with weekend events ranging from special screenings to special appearances leading to Monday's anniversary.
The building has good bones, much of which have been left on display the past decade, like exposed brick walls showing an old-school charm and giant support beams that seem like intended design elements.
This weekend sees the opening of a new entrance -- which is actually the old sidewalk entrance, restored to its 1952 appearance as a nod to its Route 66 roots.
That entrance will lead to a new lobby and concession stand along with a 250-seat, digital-projection auditorium that will double Circle Cinema's capacity.
It's been only a decade since the dream of remaking the theater as an art-house mecca was born, said Clark Wiens, Circle Cinema Foundation co-founder and president, but it's taken a considerable amount of devotion and money to make it happen.
"I really never questioned that we would finish," he said, "but I also never imagined 10 years ago that we'd have the three-screen theater that we have now to offer to the public. We're very proud."
The Circle Cinema concept -- bringing independent, foreign and documentary films to Tulsa that would otherwise bypass a market this size and enhance the showings with programs including guest speakers -- has been embraced by thousands of Tulsans, as the theater's weekly email update to 15,000-plus recipients attests.
Circle Cinema patrons are an unusually loyal lot, and weekends frequently find cars with license plates from Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas in attendance.
"The idea was to do something special in Tulsa that makes this a special place to live, and that makes Oklahoma a better place to live," Wiens said. "Now we have not only our local guests but also visitors from other places, who know that we offer something special here that they can't find where they live.
"The money to do this has come from people who believe in the mission of the Circle, and who believe it's important that it be sustained. A big part of that is showing films that educate and inform. We show a lot of films that entertain people, but we also take seriously the idea of movies that show how we can all live together, and that our differences should be celebrated."
Donations amounting to more than $2.5 million, which includes about $750,000 for the latest renovations, have made new again Tulsa's only remaining theater from the time that it opened.
That was 1928, when silent movies were shown at what was then billed as "Tulsa's first suburban theater," in a time when the city had spread little from the downtown area.
Tulsa theater history
Out of all of Tulsa's movie theaters that were constructed before 1945, only the 1928-built Circle Cinema is still showing movies.
Tulsa's first cinemas, which long ago screened their "last picture show," included:Alhambra
-- Main Street
A large number of individuals, foundations, businesses and organizations have contributed to renovating, restoring and in some cases rebuilding the Circle Cinema.
More than $2.5 million has been raised through campaigns by the Circle Cinema Foundation since it began in 2003; construction has proceeded as funds have become available, allowing the cinema to operate debt-free.
The major donors to Circle Cinema's fundraising campaigns are listed below.
-- The Mervin Bovaird Foundation
-- Pearl M. & Julia J. Harmon Foundation
-- The Helmerich Foundation
-- George Kaiser Family Foundation
-- George R. Kravis II
-- Ruth Nelson Family Foundation
-- Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
-- Stacy Schusterman and Steven Dow
-- The Kathleen P. Westby Foundation
-- Michelle and Clark Wiens
-- Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation
-- Maxine and Jack Zarrow Foundation
Circle Cinema 85th anniversary event schedule
All events Saturday through Monday are open to the public, in addition to the regular film schedule, including "Before Midnight," "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Hannah Arendt."
All events at Circle Cinema, 10 S. Lewis Ave. For more info, go to tulsaworld.com/circle
SATURDAY, JULY 13
9-11 a.m.: Spanish cartoons introduced by Miss Latina Oklahoma Kita Anaya (free event)
9-11 a.m.: "Flash Gordon" serials (free event)
-- Circle Cinema Classics (a selection of the highest-attended films since Circle's 2005 reopening)
Noon: "Ladies In Lavender," British drama starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith
7 p.m.: "The Intouchables," the 2012 French comedy and Circle's No. 1 ticket-seller
Made In Oklahoma Film Festival
2:10 p.m.: "Rainbow Around The Sun" (Q&A with filmmakers)
4:30 p.m.: "Left of Center" (Q&A with filmmakers)
SUNDAY, JULY 14
2 p.m.: "Harvey," the 1950 comedy classic starring James Stewart and Peggy Dow, better known to Tulsans as local philanthropist Peggy Helmerich. At this special screening, Helmerich will talk about her work in Hollywood and the making of "Harvey."Circle Cinema Classics
11:30 a.m.: "Sweet Land," a drama about a German woman arriving in 1920 rural Minnesota for her arranged marriage.
4:50 p.m.: "What The (Bleep) Do We Know?" documentary
Made In Oklahoma Film Festival
12:30 p.m.: "Bill's Thud" (Q&A with filmmakers)
7 p.m.: "Home, James" (Q&A with filmmakers)
MONDAY, JULY 15
(85th anniversary of Circle Cinema opening)
(All Monday events listed are free to the public. Lewis Avenue will be closed in front of Circle Cinema 6-10 p.m., with food trucks on hand, and free cookies and ice cream will be available.)
5:30 p.m.: Ribbon-cutting ceremony
6 p.m.: Walk of Fame dedication on Circle Cinema sidewalk for filmmaker Sterlin Harjo
6:30 p.m.: Screening of Harjo's short film "Goodnight Irene"
6:30 p.m.: Films showing Circle Cinema's guest speakers and history
7:30 p.m.: Student short-film program, with films from Jenks High School, University of Tulsa and Rogers State University
8 p.m.: "Hip To The Music" videos
8:30 p.m.: Tribute to "Mazeppa" with Jim Millaway, who portrayed the popular "Mazeppa" character Sherman Oaks, and who hosts a presentation of clips from multiple episodes.
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
(c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)
Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at www.tulsaworld.com
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