Empress Theatre

107-109 N. Bickford Avenue,
El Reno, OK 73014

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Consolidated Theatres, Griffith Amusement Company

Functions: Retail

Previous Names: Fortner & Newell's Theatre, Jewel Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Arthur B. “Dock” Fortner ran an Airdome in downtown El Reno for two seasons in 1914 and 1915. As the second season opened, Fortner and a partner began a new venue initially Fortner & Newell’s Theatre. It launched on September 22, 1915 across the street from the El Reno Opera House on N. Bickford Avenue. The building was a conversion from a department store in the location that was built in 1901. A month later, the venue was known as the Jewel Theatre. Fortner chided the competition which operated two theatres and tried to undercut the Jewel Theatre with predatory pricing and gimmicks including free tickets.

In 1916, Newell was replaced by John K. Miller - an $1,100 investment. Both sold out in June of 1916 to new operators V.D. Tinklepaugh and H.C. Bradford. Veteran showman Al Derry took over the Jewel Theatre in 1918 and operated it with along with the El Reno Theatre and, in 1921, the Derry Theatre which would become the Criterion Theatre and then the Rocket Theatre. A neighboring confectionery served as the de facto snack bar. In March of 1922, the Jewel Theatre suffered a significant fire closing the venue.

El Reno would get its third theatre restored when the Empress Theatre opened here - or next door - on November 17, 1923 with Rex Beach’s “The Spoilers". Criterion operators F.E. Loomis and J.C. Hines took on the Empress Theatre on February 1, 1925. The Empress Theatre was equipped with Movietone sound to remain viable beginning on March 1, 1931. In 1939, R.E. Griffith and Consolidated Theatres Circuit took on the Empress Theatre, Royal Theatre and Criterion Theatre. The days were limited for the Empress Theatre as Griffith would modernize the Criterion Theatre as the Streamline Moderne style Rocket Theatre and drop the Empress Theatre.

Hopes for a new theatre were dashed in 1945 when Mike H. Leonard took on the location and leveled the floor making a new retail marketplace.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater.