What started as a dry goods store on Main Street in Shawnee has turned into a historic landmark of the downtown community and a place filled with memories for residents young and old.

The Ritz Theatre hasn’t always been a source of entertainment, but the Society for Revitalization of Downtown Shawnee President Charlotte Patterson is trying to offer it as a venue for performing arts.


What started as a dry goods store on Main Street in Shawnee has turned into a historic landmark of the downtown community and a place filled with memories for residents young and old.
The Ritz Theatre hasn’t always been a source of entertainment, but the Society for Revitalization of Downtown Shawnee President Charlotte Patterson is trying to offer it as a venue for performing arts.
“I see the theater being a place for performing arts with an emphasis on giving youth a place to explore their talents,” she said.
With a help from the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, The Ritz Theatre project is about the preservation and restoration of the art-deco-styled theater, as well as the redevelopment of the property into a community performing arts center.
The theater will be dedicated as a centennial project at 10 a.m. today at The Ritz Theatre, 10 W. Main. The centennial money went to the replacement of the heating and air conditioning in the lobby and auditorium areas and extensive renovations to the marquee.
The building originally was a dry goods store in 1897. Patterson said that in 1913, the building was turned into a movie theater by Jake Jones Sr.
Jones took the building and named it The Cozy with a remodel of the facility during the World War I era. Patterson said Shawnee was a “hub” during the railroad days of the 1920s. The community offered several theaters, opera houses and a race track.
“There’s a lot of history here,” she said.
In 1926, The Cozy was renamed the The Ritz Theatre and offered Shawnee’s first movies with sound, also known as “talkies.”
The second floor of the building served a different purpose during the railroad and oil boom days. It was used as a boarding house/hotel.
Patterson said The Ritz served as a movie theater in the Shawnee community until 1988 when the Jones family closed the doors. She said the family did a good job keeping the facility in good condition.
“That’s why the seats and carpet are still in such good condition,” she said.
In 2000, the Jones family donated the facility to the Society for Revitalization of Downtown Shawnee for the economic development of the downtown area and the preservation of Shawnee’s historic facilities.
In recent years, The Ritz has been the home of various performances, including local plays, musicians and the Oklahoma Baptist Bison Jazz Orchestra.
Resident Kathy Kilpatrick said The Ritz has a sentimental value and provides so many memories for area residents. The SRDS group is wanting anyone with memories or ties to the theater to be involved in the restoration of the theater.
“The volunteers will have a direct impact on The Ritz and where it goes in the future,” Kilpatrick said.
Patterson said the group is looking for people who are interested in The Ritz. Those interested should e-mail theritzshawnee@aol.com with contact information for performance information and the newsletter.
The group is looking for suggestions and idea for the future renovation of the theater and what type of entertainment, including concerts and plays, to bring to the facility.
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Amanda Gire may be reached at amanda.gire@news-star.com or at 214-3934.