OKC’s Most Iconic Venue… With A Sordid Past.
The Tower Theatre opened in 1937 and is one of Oklahoma City’s last original movie houses with an intact auditorium and neon marquee. After many years of movie premieres and historic runs of classic films, the grand dame of Uptown was reduced to showing adult movies before closing in 1989. She reopened briefly in the 1990’s as a live music venue, and was shuttered again in 2000.
The building was purchased in 2005 by Marty and Mike Dillon who began renovations. In 2014, Oklahoma City development group Pivot Project, comprised of David Wanzer, Ben Sellers, and Jonathon Dodson, stepped in to complete the project.
The Early Days
The Tower was initially owned by the Standard Theaters Corporation, the same group that owned the Criterion, Midwest, Liberty, Ritz, Victoria, Warner and Plaza theaters in Oklahoma City. In 1963, Tower was acquired by Farris Shanbour, a 1942 Criterion doorman and upstairs usher, and his partner Charles A. Shadid. After many years of ups and downs, the Shanbour family transferred the title to Uptown Development Group, LLC on November 3, 2005.
After 14 years of slow-going renovations and setbacks, Tower was sold to David Wanzer, Ben Sellers, and Jonathon Dodson. Pivot Project invested $6.5 million dollars and two years of hard work to bring Tower back to life.
After being damaged multiple times by equipment trucks, and after decades of housing thousands of pigeons, the neon on the historic marquee was in need of major repairs. In 2015, halfway through the building’s renovation, the marquee was taken apart and refurbished inside and out. A sign lighting ceremony was held on January 9, 2016 and visitors were treated to a quick sneak peek inside the theatre.