Continental Theatre

7650 East Skelly Drive,
Tulsa, OK 74129

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Additional Info

Architects: Calvin Garrett

Styles: International

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Continental Theatre

Tulsa’s Continental Theatre was sister house to the Continental in Oklahoma City. Both houses specialized in reserved seat, road show engagements.

This house opened March 16, 1966 with Charlton Heston in “The Agony and the Ecstacy”. It was decorated in a black/white/chrome International flair. The continental style, 1,000 seat auditorium contained overstuffed rocking chair theatre seats, a curved, mammoth sized screen, and lush drapery.

Barton Theatres sunk a great sum of money into building both Continental Theatres. Unfortunately, it was at this same time that twin cinemas were coming into vogue, and road show attractions were falling out of favor with the movie-going public. Thus, niether cinema ever attained financial success. It was closed March 15, 1981 with Neil Diamond in “The Jazz Singer”.

After sitting vacant, the Tulsa Continental Theatre was razed in 1981.

Contributed by Ben Miller

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

JoelWeide on June 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Following link. Thank you!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Seating capacity is usually given by the person who submitted the theater. I suspect that some of them just guess at it. If the submitter doesn’t provide a seat count, theater editor Ken Roe sometimes adds it. For American and Canadian theaters I think he usually uses the capacity listings in The Film Daily Yearbook.

The yearbook doesn’t always give accurate seat counts. It relied on owners and managers to provide the numbers, and they would sometimes falsify them, usually under-reporting in order to beat the projectionist’s union’s rule that houses with more than 1,000 seats had to hire two projectionists. There were also cases of simple careless editing that would lead to an under-report.

It’s also the case that some theaters actually were greatly reduced in capacity over the years because, as business declined, balconies and galleries would be closed to the public to save on maintenance and insurance costs. Some old houses that had the greater part of their seats on upper levels would end up reporting nothing but the orchestra floor capacity, which was sometimes quite small.

There were other, lesser factors leading to reduced seating capacity. Operators of aging theaters would often cannibalize working seats from the front of the house to replace seats in other parts of the auditorium that had been broken. That would lead to a creeping decline in capacity. Old theaters also lost some capacity when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, forcing them to remove some seats to provide space and access for patrons in wheelchairs.

There have also been a few cases where operators would remove every other row of seats, in order to provide more leg room for today’s taller patrons. It’s much cheaper than completely re-seating a theater, and can buy a house with declining patronage a couple of extra years of operation.

No doubt many of the theater pages at Cinema Treasures do seriously under-report seating capacity, but there are also many cases where the capacity of a fairly large theater has actually been significantly reduced, and the numbers given are accurate even though they seem too small.

jackh62 on September 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm

This was a great theatre. I worked at the Continental from Nov 1978 through Jan 1980. If I remember correctly, the seat count was just over 900. We had a good winter (‘78) and summer ('79) with The Jerk and Moonraker, respectively.

BillyOK on January 16, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Isn’t this were STAR WARS debuted in the Summer of 1977?
I believe I went to a Midnight showing there.
We moved away from T-Town in 1986.

Coate on January 16, 2014 at 4:47 pm

First-run STAR WARS in Tulsa was at Southroads Mall.

kennyjrz on September 14, 2014 at 5:38 am

I remember going to the last showing of the last movie that played here, when I was a sophomore in high school. It was “The Jazz Singer”, with Neal Diamond.

davegkuhn on December 17, 2015 at 2:08 pm

I saw Starwars opening night May 1977 at Southroads mall…it blew everyone inside away!

OKCdoorman on November 15, 2016 at 7:18 pm

Man, when they closed a theatre in this town, they covered it—on page 1! (“Tulsa’s Continental Theater Has Its Last Picture Show/Site Yielding to Office Complex,” Monday, March 16, 1981, Tulsa World).

Opened on the day of the second “Watts Riots,” Wednesday, March 16, 1966, with a five month-old movie, Carol Reed’s film of Irving Stone’s book, THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY in an invitation only premiere for the Tulsa Psychiatric Foundation (public seats the next day.)

Closed for good practically on its 15th birthday (kennyjrz memory is correct) with TV producer Jerry Leider’s troubled feature remake of THE JAZZ SINGER, on Sunday, March 15, 1981. Manager Van Lee Lowe was already contending with reduced staff (“Another girl quit Thursday.”) when the curtain finally went down (“This is a shame…”).

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on November 16, 2016 at 2:27 pm

A 3/21/1966 issue if Boxoffice referenced that this theatre actually opened 10/21/1965.

Coate on November 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Scott Neff… That 10/21/1965 date was for the opening of the Continental in Oklahoma City.

davegkuhn… The Southroads Mall opening of “Star Wars” was June 24th, 1977 (not in May).

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