Enterprise’s OK Theatre is 100 years old this year. Conceived and completed in 1918, the theatre’s opening was delayed until Saturday, Jan. 25, 1919 by the threat of global influenza epidemic. The theatre began with silent films, that starred such legends as John Barrymore and Mary Pickford. “Talkies” appeared on the screen in 1929. The theatre closed, sold, and reopened several times, operating from 1933 to 1981 as the “Vista Theatre”. Today, owned and operated by Darrell and Christi Brann, the newly refurbished OK is on the register of National Historic Places and offers live performances of both local and legendary musicians and bands.
- A. Hackbarth announces the construction of the theatre in July 1918. The theatre would feature a new concept in modern movie houses adapted from the East Coast: a sloping floor that would allow everyone in the theatre to have a good view of the screen. Other modern touches included five safety exits and steam heat. John Oberg, builder of the Enterprise City Library, won the contract for carpentry construction and Samuel Haworth was hired for masonry work. Theatre seats were modern, and imported from Chicago.
- October 6, 1918: A. Hackbarth names the new theatre he is building on Main Street the “OK Theatre.” J.A. Van Wie from Portland will be the manager. He arranges for adding mural decorations to the walls, which “will make the auditorium very bright and attractive.”
- December 1918, Theatre is completed, but opening banned due to the influenza pandemic. The Chieftain reports that while waiting for the day they could open, manager Van Wie “…completed murals, finished the wiring and installed the chairs and the “picture machines”.
- January 25, 1919: Brand new OK Theatre opens after 6 week delay due to influenza pandemic. Offers two silent movie shows daily at 7:15 and 9 PM, with admission 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. First movie: “The Law of the North” starring Charles Ray. The movie promises “dramatic action and thrills!” On opening night, local physician Dr. Charles Ault instructs patrons to sit one or two seats apart to avoid spreading any remaining influenza pathogens.
- February 6, 1919: OK Theatre petitions to show movies on Sunday afternoon. City Council balks, seeking input and comments from public, then finally relents.
- In September 1929, the first talking movies debut at the OK Theatre with the R.K.O. picture “Street Girl.” Shows to a sold-out audience. The “music is reproduced beautifully and the spoken word can generally be distinguished,” the Chieftain reported on Sept. 19.
- 1933: OK Theatre renamed the Vista Theatre. Continues as primarily a movie theatre.
- 1981: Russell Ford purchases theatre, restores its original name.
- March, 2003: OK Theatre gets new seats! Shabby old seats are replaced by comfortable modern ones, “complete with cup holders.” Acoustical insulation is added to the walls, and covered by drapery retrieved from a bankrupt movie theater in Walla Walla.