OKLAHOMA CITY'S FILM ROW DISTRICT IS AMONG THE HOTTEST NEIGHBORHOODS IN TOWN, YET FEW PEOPLE ARE AWARE OF ITS UNIQUE HISTORY. It’s amazing that this portion of downtown Oklahoma City once housed the offices of major Hollywood film studios like Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, MGM, and more. It’s even more thrilling to learn that the same stars and starlets that graced cinema screens in Oklahoma theaters also walked our city streets!
Starting as early as 1907, the first film exchange distribution office opened along downtown's Main Street. By the 1960s, hundreds of film exchanges representing every major film studio operated across the city until new technologies and transportation innovations changed the way films were distributed, leading to the demise of a film exchange network that spanned thirty-seven cities. Oklahoma City's Film Row is the last one standing, with nearly every building still intact and its rich history preserved.
It was along Film Row that innovations in the motion picture experience stirred. It was the former Oklahoma Theater Supply Company that converted all the surrounding silent film theaters to sound and later installed all the drive-in speakers and sound systems across the lower Midwest. Within the offices of Video Independent Theater, housed behind the Paramount Pictures building, cable television as we know it was conceived and implemented through the Tele-movie Experiment in Bartlesville, Oklahoma – an experience that drew in exhibitors from all over the world. It was also along Sheridan Avenue that ancillary businesses provided everything needed to build or operate a movie house in the Midwest (including concessions), making Film Row a one-stop-shop for thousands of exhibitors and fans through the ensuing decades.
Today, Film Row has been reborn from a love of its amazing past, and development and new construction abounds. The creative presence at the heart of Film Row's Sheridan and Lee Avenues includes a plethora of artistic businesses, a movie house, law firms, locally-owned restaurants, and so much more. The future looks even better as more and more learn about Film Row and its amazing legacy, making it one of Oklahoma City's brightest stars!
- by Bradley Wynn