When “The Wizard of Oz” debuted on the screen of the Coleman Theatre on Aug. 25, 1939, it was almost a week after its national release date.
It was only screened here for three days before being bumped by “Stop, Look and Love” starring Jean Rogers and William Frawley.
It’s amazing how times have changed.
Now one of the top 10 American classic movies, “The Wizard of Oz” will be featured as part of the Coleman’s 90th birthday celebration Thursday, April 18.
Tickets are only $1.
Built in 1939 for local mining magnate George Coleman, it was called the most elaborate theater between Dallas and Kansas City, Missouri.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, it’s hosted vaudeville acts, musical groups and movies. Lots of movies.
The birthday party — complete with cake — begins at 6:30 p.m.
Coleman Theatre house organist Dennis James will provide “Wizard of Oz” themed music on the theater’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ before the singing of “Happy Birthday.”
James also will play during intermission and following the movie.
The movie, based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900s children’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” will be shown about 7:10 p.m. Doors will open just after 6 p.m.
Birthday cake will be served following the movie.
“The night is all about coming to the Coleman Theatre and celebrating a milestone,” said Coleman Theatre managing director Shannon Duhon said. “It’s about families coming out. We want a lot of people here, but we would love to see lots of family units here so everyone has a chance to have some fun and experience the wonder of the Coleman Theatre.”
Duhon asked for suggestions on “what one movie, what would you want to see?” on a Facebook post.
“We got an amazing number of responses, movies that run the gamut from ‘Gone With The Wind’ to ‘Diehard,’ ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ and all the classics like ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ a lot of John Wayne movies and things of that nature. It was quite the eclectic recommendation list from our Facebook fans.”
Duhon said “Gone With The Wind” — which also premiered in 1939 — was the top vote getter, but it presented challenges, primarily since it was a four-hour movie with an intermission.
“Wizard” was the second leading vote getter.
It has a loose connection with the Coleman via the Munchkins, who performed here in 1930 as the Singer Midgets.
“With that tie-in, the ‘Wizard of Oz’ turning 80, the Coleman turning 90, we thought it would work perfectly for us,” Duhon said. “We all know it's a wonderful movie, but few of us have actually seen it on the big screen.”
Duhon is encouraging both children and adults to dress up as their favorite “Wizard” character.
Also, Duhon encourages everyone attending is encouraged to wear green “because we’re all going to be honorary citizens of Emerald City.”
Miami Little Theatre, which performed “The Wizard of Oz” on the stage of the Coleman in 2014, will have members dressed as characters from the movie. They will be available for photos.
An assortment of prizes — included a t-shirt autographed by Miami native Kiefer Thompson and his wife, Shawna — will be awarded to winners of the contest competition as well as other games.
“It really just highlights everything that makes the Coleman special, the Wurlitzer pipe organ, seeing a classic film here and just having a nice, big, happy audience singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Coleman Theatre,” Duhon said, noting that those planning on attending should get tickets as soon as possible.
He’s expecting a capacity crowd.
“All they have to do is call us, tell us how many that want us to reserve for them and they can pay for them that night,” Duhon said.