There are small town theatres across the state of Oklahoma. While many have been re-purposed or tore down, one community is working to keep the tradition alive.
Grand Arts Council of Canton has spent thousands of dollars over the years restoring the Grand Theatre on N. Broadway Street. The theatre was built in 1920 and operated until the mid-1980s.
The building was donated to the Grand Arts Council of Canton by the Robert Smith family in 1997 in rough shape.
If its walls could talk, what a story the building could tell.
“I’m 77 years old and I talk to guys my age and they remember their first kiss being here, first date, first girlfriend, you name it,” said Larry Kirkham, with the Grand Arts Council. “That is basically what sticks with them, you talk to anybody and that is what they're going to tell you.”
Over the years, the theatre has received new signs, air conditioning, floors, walls and ceilings. A new awning has recently been installed with flashy lights, bringing a whole new life to the downtown.
“Back in the war times, that is where all of the news of the world came was the big screen,” said Kirkham. “People were able to see what was going on in the world and in the war. It’s been a communication center for the town.”
More than 150 members make up the Grand Arts Council of Canton. The group is funded mostly by donations and profits from the thrift shop next door.
The theatre still shows movies to children. It also serves as a spot for music lessons and performances.
The Grand Theatre continues to live up to its name.
“We represent the arts in Canton,” said Kirkham. “That is what we want to project to everybody to make sure that they get a dose of art.”
The sign on the front of the theatre is original to 1920. A grand re-opening is scheduled for late October.