On April 18, 1929, 1,600 people first entered the Coleman Theatre – with its sparkling chandeliers and stately staircases – where they experienced a live vaudeville show and movie in the ornate auditorium and were amazed by the beautiful sound of The Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ.

They were the inaugural patrons of hundreds of thousands to enjoy Oklahoma’s premiere theatre over the next nine decades in Miami.

Officials with the Downtown Redevelopment Authority in Miami has a mission to preserve, maintain and operate this magnificent facility as a performing arts and entertainment venue for the benefit and enjoyment of all.

Today, the Coleman Theatre presents a wide variety of concerts, live theatre, silent films, classic and new films, school programs, and many other special events. And they offer free events from time to time to ensure everyone has an opportunity to experience the magic.

Those that oversee and operate the theatre wanted to come up with a way to make improvements without being a burden on the city.

With that in mind, they have launched a fundraising campaign to upgrade the sound and lighting systems inside the theater called “$90 to Celebrate 90 Years.”

In honor of the theatre’s 90th anniversary, people are encouraged to make a donation of $90 — or any amount — to help the city position this community treasure to meet the theatrical and cinematic demands of the future.

Donations from the Friends of the Coleman enabled the theatre to get a new projector last summer.

The number two and number three projects were always going to be sound and lighting, according to Shannon Duhon, Coleman managing director.

“The main thing we want people to understand is that the sound and lighting systems we have been using served us well for many, many years, but it’s time to upgrade to meet the needs and demands for movies, traveling shows, and performers," Duhon said. "Everyone that visits the Coleman – whether it’s to perform or to see and hear a performance, like the Miami Little Theatre, area school children and teachers, every solo artist and group — will benefit.

"Even the movie experience is going to be greatly enhanced with the new sound system."

Duhon said the theatre, which is owned by the city, competes for its portion of the "pie form the money that is available."

"We know the city has pressing needs in other areas — roads and infrastructure, for example, but there’s only so much money available and sometimes that means not being able to do everything," he said. "As times change, so too does technology.

"We have reached a point at 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 this "$90 To Celebrate 90 Years" campaign will be placed in a special account 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. Help us make the next 90 years grand, and thank you for your support."

Also in celebration of the Coleman’s 90th anniversary, a 90th birthday celebration which includes a showing of Wizard of Oz at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 18, will take place. The classic featuring Judy Garland among others, is turning 80 this year.

Festivities will begin at 6:30 p.m. with house organist Dennis James, the master of “The Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ, providing pre-movie, intermission, and post-movie entertainment, playing a selection of music that 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 birthday cake. Cake will be available to those attending after the movie, which will begin at approximately 7:10 p.m.

Admission is $1 in honor of opening night prices from 1929. Special commemorative tickets for the event are now available and may be purchased by cash or check only.

Those wishing to reserve tickets may call the theatre 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 the Miami Little Theatre will dress as characters from the movie and be present to have their pictures taken. Adults and children are invited to dress as their favorite character from the movie to compete for prizes.

Those who have seen the movie are well aware of the Munchkin characters, but may not be familiar with the story of those hired to play them.

The Munchkins got their start working for Leo Singer, who operated a popular vaudeville attraction in the first half of the 20th century known as the Singer Midgets, and they actually performed on the Coleman stage in February of 1930, several years before they appeared in the film.

For more information about the Coleman Theatre, or to purchase tickets or make a donation, persons interested may contact colemantheatre@miamiokla.net or 918-540-2425.