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One of Oklahoma City's oldest film exchange buildings slated for the wrecking ball

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Each day, I slow down a little as I drive by this battered, but still beautiful building on my drive to and from The Oklahoman’s downtown newsroom. The beat up old dame was built to last–with decorative brickwork and limestone parapet caps and sills.

The front of the old film exchange building at SW Fifth and Robinson.
The front of the old film exchange building at SW Fifth and Robinson.

The old film exchange building at S. Robinson and SW Fifth predates even Oklahoma City’s Film Row. Long empty, the dilapidated building stands in the path of the MAPS 3 downtown park. The building is owned by the city and will eventually be demolished to make way for the 70-acre park.

The original decorative awning on the front of the  Robinson film exchange building.
The original decorative awning on the front of the Robinson film exchange building.

 

Built in 1926, the building at S. Robinson and SW Fifth building is believed to be Oklahoma City’s second-oldest film exchange building that is still standing, second only to the Vitagraph building at 123. S. Hudson Ave., which was built in 1920. In the early 20th-century, Oklahoma City became became a regional hub for the film exchange industry. Theater owners came to Oklahoma City to screen and lease films to show in their theaters, as well as buy theater supplies like posters and concessions. Much of the history of Oklahoma City’s film exchange industry and the area of the city now called Film Row is known today thanks to the work of local historian Bradley Wynn who wrote a great book on the subject.

Oklahoma City’s homeless population seems to still appreciate the Robinson film exchange building’s charms.

Between 1926 to 1931, The Robinson film exchange housed offices for First National Pictures, Vitagraph, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Fox Films.

In the early 20th Century, fears of fires were a very real thing in the film industry because of flammable nitrate film stock. Oklahoma City enacted stricter ordinances in the late 1920s that forced the film exchange industry to move most of its operations to the Film Row area on W. Sheridan Avenue between N. Walker Avenue and N. Shartel Avenue between 1927 and 1931.

The Robinson film exchange building was used as tire store in the late 1920s to 1931 and served as the City Rescue Mission for a time in the 1980s.

The city has no immediate plans to tear the Robinson Film Exchange building down and the demolition work has not been put out for bid yet, said Zach Nash, a spokesman for Oklahoma City. The $132 million park project is scheduled to be completed by 2021.

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

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