East Side Square,
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Previous Names: Clifhaven Theater, Ozark Opera House, Civic Theatre, Radio Theatre, Gem Theatre, Club Theatre, New Theatre, Safety-Nook Theatre, Safetynook Theater, Air Dome, Airdome, Tent Theatre, Raids Theatre
The small town of Ozark, Missouri had an abnormally large number of uniquely-titled movie theatres in the silent era prior to getting a long-lasting venue in the sound era. This single entry will encapsulate all of the town’s known movie venues other than the long-running Ozark (formerly Civic) Theatre. Like a number of small cities in the United States, Ozark started with an opera house. The first one opened late in the 19th Century as the Ozark Opera House and ran almost exclusively with live events until 1911.
In 1910, J.A. Graham and H.E. Nicholls opened the Air Dome in Ozark likely due to poor ventilation in the Opera House. The town enjoyed motion picture presentations there. The city got a $10,000 new wood framed Opera House in 1911. The “New” Opera House was built to present motion pictures in addition to live events. It went by the name of the Club Theater primarily when it showed movies and by the Ozark Opera House when it booked live events.
In 1914, the Gem Theatre opened on the East Side of the town’s Square. In 1915, George White took on the venue changing its name and going out of business. White used handbills to advertise eschewing the local newspaper so it’s difficult to know the operational lifecycle or even the correct name of the theatre. The Opera House - Club Theatre also went out of business in 1918 and was torn down in 1919.
The town next got a new movie theatre called the Radio Theatre in 1920 which operated until 1926. The Tent Theatre also launched seasonally from 1923 until 1932 with movies playing a significant role there. Cliff Woody took on the hardtop theatre called - perhaps in error - briefly as the Raids Theatre. He improved the venue renaming it as the Clifhaven Theatre and, sometimes advertised as the Cliffhaven Theater. (The single-f moniker appears to be the more accepted spelling.)
The Clifhaven Theatre closed permanently on January 12, 1929 due to a minor fire. Woody tried to restart the operation but appears to have failed. For a brief period, folks who wanted to see a movie had to drive about ten miles from Ozark to Harve T. Nokes' Elite Theatre in Nixa, Missouri in 1929.
Ozark’s final silent-era moviehouse was launched on the East Side Square location once held by Holbert and Holbert Grocers. The New Theatre opened namelessly on April 5, 1929 with the John Ford film, “Four Sons". Advertisements reassured patrons with many advertisements and news notes about the fireproof projection booth. This was a good idea given the fate of Woody’s Clifhaven Theatre.
A naming contest offering ten free tickets for the best name for the New was instituted. The winner was not “Ozark” but “Safety-Nook” then converted to the hyphen-less Safetynook Theatre. The name appears to have been conjured up because of the creation of its projection booth. A 1930 fire at Nokes' Elite in Nixa led to a new sound theatre being built in that city in 1931. The Safetynook Theatre faded away as a venue not converting to sound films and it appears that Ozark residents drove to Nixa for movies.
Ozark, Missouri, appears to have been theatre-less other than its Tent Theatre until Paul Bloomer and Lloyd Lee opened The Civic Theatre on October 9, 1936. That venue relaunched on September 11, 1937 as the Ozark Theatre keeping that name all the way into the 1970’s. It has a much simpler Cinema Treasures entry.
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