Merit Theatre

211 E. Main Street,
Wilburton, OK 74578

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Meriott Theatre

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Merlott & Meriott moved into an existing retail location in downtown Wilburton to create the Meriott Theatre to play feature-length photoplays. Their advantage was having two projectors to accommodate longer films. It opened on November 8, 1913 and was called the “swellest” theatre in the vicinity. The Meriotts would secure the Universal Studios film contract ensuring steady feature film content. The Meriott’s slogan was, “We are here to please the people.” Apparently they succeeded.

On April 2, 1915, J.S. Latimer purchased the Meriott Theatre and renamed the venue as the Merit Theatre likely removing two letters from the external signage of the former Meriott. Latimer would purchase The Theatorium which served as the new home of the “New Merit Theatre” on November 18, 1916. Its Cinema Treasure listing can be found under the name of the Pex Theatre - the venue’s final operating name. The next occupant of the former Merriot / Merit venue decidedly rejected the catch phrase of “We are here to please the paper” doing quite the opposite.

If news accounts are correct, the Citizens Bank expanded into the Merit building next. What transpired there was more interesting than all of the movies that had played in the venue previously. It was run by a man named F.L. Johnson who allowed folks to purchase stock in the Citizens Bank. After all, it was a bank that should be owned by local citizens. Apparently, Johnson took the money from the stock sales to purchase the area’s largest cattle ranch, borrowed money at multiple institutions using the ranch as collateral, quickly sold all of the ranch’s cattle in a single, large transaction, and took off with all the loot.

The local paper accounts called Johnson’s actions the greatest game of “frenzied financing” seen in the county’s history. He was called in the reports as a “humdinger” and “four flusher” who had absconded with the local residents’ dollars by using a fancy car, nice suit of clothes and a bit of salesmanship to run his gambit. Rumors placed Johnson in Mexico and South America. The bank managed to carry on a bit longer before dissolving. It would be replaced by a bakery.

Contributed by Dallasmovietheaters
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