Going in Circles

The Circle Cinema, with its eye-catching neon marquee, is located just a mile from the Campbell Hotel.

The Campbell had a visit from a neighbor the other day: Stephanie LaFevers, executive director of the Circle Cinema Foundation, stopped by to talk historic preservation with us.

Like the Campbell, the Circle is a Route 66 veteran that might have disappeared if not for the enthusiasm and energy of dedicated individuals who saw its potential and its value to our community.

The Circle Cinema, 10 S. Lewis, was built in 1928 on an early alignment of Route 66. In its heyday, it offered a cozy alternative to the now-vanished downtown movie palaces, but the years weren’t always kind to the old theater, which showed standard Hollywood films through the 1950s and into the 1960s before switching to adult movies in the 1970s in a bid to survive amid the rise of the multiplexes, LaFevers said.

When that didn’t work, the Circle began showing Spanish-language films in an attempt to capitalize on Tulsa’s growing Latino population. That effort eventually failed, too, and despite its star turn in the 1983 film The Outsiders, the Circle closed for about 10 years before being purchased in 2003, LaFevers said.

“Pigeons and vagrants took over,” she said. “It was a mess.”

In 2004, as crews gutted the original theater — whose roof had been open, exposing the building to the elements — the Circle 2 opened next door, showing independent films and providing space for art exhibits and community events.

A year later, the Circle suffered another setback when a wall collapsed during the interior demolition process. The facade survived, but the back of the theater had to be completely rebuilt, LaFevers said. The structure is now complete, but about $1 million is needed to complete the interior, she said.

LaFevers said the community has been very supportive of the project.

“We just need more,” she said. “It’s a big project.”

To add your support to the Circle, call (918) 585-FILM or visit the Circle’s Web site,, to make a donation.

Better yet, why not come to Tulsa to deliver your donation in person and catch a movie while you’re at it? What could be better than checking into the Campbell Hotel, then cruising a few blocks down Route 66 to watch an indie film and photograph the beautifully restored neon sign at the historic Circle Cinema?

To book your unforgettable weekend in Tulsa, call the Campbell Hotel at (918) 744-5500 or visit

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