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Hornbeck closing its doors in downtown Shawnee; last day of business is Sept. 29

The Shawnee News-Star
The Hornbeck and Penthouse in downtown Shawnee.

Downtown Shawnee landmark, the Hornbeck Theatre, 125 North Bell, will cease operation at the close of business Tuesday, September 29, 2020. The announcement was made by owner/operators Jones Theatres, Inc. and AMC Theatres.

Jones Theatre owner, Ronny Jones, cited the long six-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as availability of appropriate programming titles due to Hollywood’s shutdown in production, as reasons for the permanent closure.

“It’s like losing a family member,” Jones said. “The Hornbeck has been part of Jones Theatres since 1954. I’m confident that many, many people will have stories to tell about attending or working at the theater.”

For the final week of operation, two favorites from 1985 were chosen to play in the two auditoriums. Steven Spielberg’s “The Goonies” and “Back to the Future” will be the final big screen offerings. Both are rated PG.

The other two Jones Theatre Shawnee locations will remain open. The Cinema Centre 8 at 3031 N. Harrison and Movies 6 at Shawnee Mall are operating with Cinema Safe protocols in place. Distancing, masks, sanitizing between shows and other practices are adhered to throughout the day to keep guests and staff safe.

A Brief History of the Hornbeck Theatre

The Hornbeck Theatre, 125 N. Bell, opened in downtown Shawnee on July 10, 1947. Owners of the theatre were Griffith Theatres of Oklahoma City, OK. and partner/manager Shawnee Mayor Adam Hornbeck. Designed by Dallas architect Jack Corgan, the 1100 seat theatre was decorated by Jan Hornbeck, Adam Hornbeck’s daughter, who went on to become an interior designer in California.

Streamline modern lines, cove lighting and a luxurious mezzanine as well as cry rooms were part of the original Corgan plan. Corgan designed numerous theatres throughout the southwest after World War II, but the Hornbeck was one of his best and longest surviving theatres.

At that time Griffith and Mayor Hornbeck also operated the Bison, Criterion, Starlite Drive-In and Tecumseh Drive-In in Shawnee.

Jones “Homefolks” Theatres --- as it was called then --- was the competition operating the Ritz and Jake Theatres, both on Main Street, as well as the Crest Theatre in Stillwater, as a competitor to Griffith’s Stillwater theatres.

By 1952 Griffith Theatres had become Video Independent Theatres, a company comprised of owner/managers in each community. In 1954 Johnny H. Jones and sister Ruby Jones bought Adam Hornbeck’s interest in the Shawnee theatres and became partner/managers with Video in a joint venture in Shawnee. With this set-up the Crest in Stillwater was relinquished to be part of Griffith’s Stillwater theatres.

The first order of business for the new Jones Theatres/Video Independent Theatres operation was to install the new wide screen technology---CinemaScope---in its theatres. By the summer of 1954, the Hornbeck boasted CinemaScope as well as four track magnetic stereophonic sound. As screens got wider, sound became directional for a theatre experience that couldn’t be matched on television of the day.

In 1972, Ruby Jones sold her interest to nephew Ronny Jones. Father and son, Johnny and Ronny formed Jones Theatres, Inc. In 1973 the Hornbeck closed for six weeks and was completely remodeled changing the 400-seat balcony into a separate auditorium---named the Penthouse---which opened December 13, 1973.

The twin theatre could now offer a family attraction on one screen as well as more mature fare on the other. Families could come to the same complex and see different movies.

In 1984 Video Independent Theatres was bought by Martin Theatres of Georgia, which later became Carmike Cinemas. In 2016 Carmike’s interest was purchased by AMC Theatres. Jones Theatres, Inc. still operates the Cinema Centre 8 at 3031 N. Harrison, and Movies Six at Shawnee Mall with AMC affiliation.