MIAMI — The Coleman Theatre will celebrate its 90th anniversary on Thursday, April 18 with a special showing of “The Wizard of Oz,” which is turning 80 this year.
Festivities will begin at 6:30 p.m. with Coleman Theatre house organist Dennis James, the master of “The Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ, providing pre-movie entertainment. He will play a selection of music, which will coincide with the film.
A special welcome and singing of “Happy Birthday” will take place at 6:50 p.m. along with the cutting of the official Coleman Theatre birthday cake. Birthday cake will be available to those attending after the movie.
The movie will begin at approximately 7:10 p.m. James will also provide organ music during intermission and after the movie.
Admission is $1 in honor of opening night prices from April 18, 1929. Special commemorative tickets for the event are now available. Tickets may be purchased by cash or check only.
Those wishing to reserve tickets need only call the theatre (918-540-2425) and give their name and the number of tickets they wish to purchase.
Tickets may be picked up and paid for during normal business hours or the night of the event.
Volunteers from Miami Little Theatre will be dressed as characters from the movie and available to have their pictures taken with families. Adults and children are asked to dress as their favorite character from the movie to compete for prizes that will be given away that night.
“What a tremendous milestone for the Coleman Theatre,” said Shannon Duhon, managing director. “This is such a special place and we are so fortunate to still have this jewel. We still have it because so many dedicated people worked so hard for so long to save and restore this theatre.
“This celebration is as much about thanking them for their efforts as it is a birthday celebration. I hope we never forget what they did for this city in restoring the Coleman Theatre and that we are up to the challenge of keeping it going.”
The anniversary celebration will also serve as the kickoff for a new fundraising campaign for the theatre, named “$90 To Celebrate 90 Years.”
The purpose of the campaign is to generate much-needed funds to upgrade the theatre’s sound and lighting systems. Duhon said the theatre’s current sound and lighting systems have served the theatre well, but the time has come to make significant upgrades to both.
“As times change, so too does technology,” Duhon said. “We have reached a point in which the Coleman Theatre must embrace that new technology if we are to continue as a performing arts center. Our current theatrical lighting and sound equipment has served us well for many years, but to meet the technical demands of today an upgrade is necessary.”
All funds collected during the “$90 To Celebrate 90 Years” campaign will be placed in a special account in the Coleman Theatre budget and earmarked for sound and lighting equipment upgrades only.
“It is an ambitious campaign, but one that is necessary,” Duhon said. “We are asking for $90, but feel free to give what you can. We will certainly accept more, but we will graciously accept any amount given.”
According to Duhon, “The Wizard of Oz” was chosen from a list of movies provided by followers of the theatre’s Facebook page. The top two vote getters were “Gone With The Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
“We finally decided on ‘The Wizard of Oz’ because of the interesting connection between the movie and the theatre,” Duhon said.
Those who have seen the movie are well aware of the Munchkins, but may not be familiar with the story of those hired to play the characters.
The Munchkins got their start working for Viennese-born Leo Singer. Singer operated a popular vaudeville attraction in the first half of the 20th century known as the Singer Midgets. Singer started with about 20 little people with many more being added for “The Wizard of Oz.”
“The Singer Midgets actually performed on the Coleman stage in February of 1930,” Duhon said. “It would be several years later before they appeared in the film.”
For more information about the anniversary celebration, to obtain a special commemorative ticket for the event or the “$90 To Celebrate 90 Years” campaign, contact the theatre at 918-540-2425 or by email at email@example.com.