Pex Theatre

205 E. Main Street,
Wilburton, OK 74578

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Phil Isley Theaters

Previous Names: Royce's Theatorium, Theatorium, Theatorium and Airdome, New Merit Theatre, Merit Theatre and Airdome

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  1. Henry Royce opened the Theatorium – and sometimes called Royce’s Theatorium - on May 25, 1909 with motion pictures and it competed locally against the Temple Theatre which also was dedicated to movie presentations. One of the highlights of opening day was a short film clips of a baseball game between New York and Chicago which, according to reports, was watched “earnestly… as if it had been a game in Degnan Park.” Impressive! The venue’s policy was to change films every other day to have fresher films than its competitor.

Having achieved statehood just two year’s earlier, Oklahoma’s Wilburton’s population grew from 1,500 to a new high of 2,226 in 1920 on the back of coal mining. And the Theatorium its community well. Royce created the Airdome, a 900-seat venue that had a 300-seat gallery for Wilburton’s large African American population beginning in 1910. It was located at the rear of the hardtop theatre according to reports. It was known as the Theatorium and Airdome during the months of operation that the open air theatre was functioning.

On October 23, 1913, Phil R. Isley took over the theatre as part of his Isley Circuit. Isley made what were called “decided” changes to the establishment. The venue was decidedly called the Theatorium dropping all references to Royce’s. Isley sold the venue to G.B. Powell running it with the Airdome beginning in 1914. J.S. Latimer purchased the venue in 1916 moving out “undesirable seats” and moving toward “first class service".

The venue reopened as the new home of the “New Merit Theatre” on November 18, 1916. That venue had been called the Meriott and Merit in another location prior. The New Merit / former Theatorium reverted to its original owner, W. Henry Royce, and back to Latimer in 1919. During the warn months, it was run under the name of the Merit Theater and Airdome.

After a period of inactivity 5th the location following the opening of the new-build American Theatre, John “Peck” McGinley re-equipped the venue with new seats and projection. His 260-seat Pex Theatre opened as the final moniker of the venue on September 5, 1927 with Wallace Berry in “Fireman, Save my Child". The projection booth sported two new Powers 6B projectors and an Orthophonic device that could play up to 12 records played alongside the silent films. It was a money saver.

A lecture about democracy by Granville Jones appears to be the last event in the venue on March 23, 1928. The Pex Theatre closed without converting to sound. McGinley sold off the equipment to Eastern Oklahoma College ending the venue’s run at just under twenty years.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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