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MAINTAINING HISTORY: Circle Cinema needs donations for the 96-year-old landmark

Posted at 3:49 AM, Jun 21, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — This summer marks 96 years of Circle Cinema serving as a Tulsa icon, its marquee a bright red beacon.

The historic building has stood the test of time, but upkeep is neither easy nor cheap. Thus, the Circle recently launched a new fundraising effort.

Many local cinemas have been shuttered by foundational shifts in the movie theater industry over the decades. Circle Cinema's withstood all that is a testament to the community’s love for this Route 66 landmark.

Circle Cinema said that despite benefiting from an expansion and renovation two decades ago, buildings as old as their own require constant care.
The community historically stepped in to help keep the movie theater in tip-top shape.

circle cinema circa 1942
Circle Cinema c. 1942

“Our members and our guests often ask us, ‘How can we help preserve this historic 96-year-old cinema in Tulsa?’” Brent Ortolani, its executive director, told 2 News. “And, you know, 100-year-old buildings require a lot of maintenance, and our building’s in great shape, but we now and then have to repair a leak.”

To ensure Tulsa’s last remaining traditional movie palace “survives and thrives well into the future,” Circle Cinema recently established a new Building and Maintenance Fund.

When announcing this, the Circle specifically cited the need to “replace a roof and improve accessibility in the cinema.”

According to Ortolani, it’s become a summertime tradition for its members and guests to support the institution with donations. For instance, they helped the Circle buy a new projector last year.

“We are a nonprofit organization, so we depend not just on ticket and concession sales,” he said, “but also charitable contributions from our members in the community to help present independent cinema in Tulsa, but also to preserve the last remaining movie palace and traditional theater experience in the city.”

circle cinema circa 1934
Circle Cinema c. 1934

Circle Cinema opened on July 15, 1928. “It was Tulsa’s first suburban movie theater,” according to Ortolani.

He explained that Tulsa, in the past, had “probably a half-dozen of what we called the old movie palaces. Unfortunately, most of them are gone and they’re now parking lots,” he added. “But this one survived.”

To contribute to the movie theater’s Building and Maintenance Fund, click here.


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