Historic theatre in Carnegie reopens after closing due to pandemic

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:25 PM CST
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CARNEGIE, Okla. (KSWO) - After being shut down for 18 months due to COVID, the Liberty Theatre in Carnegie officially reopened Wednesday, Nov. 24.

The Liberty Theatre first opened in 1915, 13 years before sound was in movies. And over the years, as the film industry has evolved, so has the theatre.

Jerry Applewhite bought the single-screen theater from the original owners in 1974, expanding it in 1995, adding two more screens.

“It used to be advertised as the longest continuously running theatre in Oklahoma,” Applewhite said. “It had never shut down before COVID.”

He had to shut the doors in March of last year, taking a huge blow.

“The first month that I was closed down I lost 80,000, the second month I lost about 40,000,” Applewhite said. “And from then on it was in the 15 to 20,000 per month range.”

In a town of under 2,000, news of the theatre closing did not sit well with people according to Miss Carnegie 2021 Kemeree Hodges.

“Everybody was upset,” she said. “Several weeks into the theatre being closed, it was COVID, but people were understanding about it, but they were also hangry I would say, about not having their show dogs.”

Applewhite said the show dogs are a highlight at the venue.

“We use only the best ingredients, all beef wieners, we steam them, and they’re good,” he said.

It didn’t take long for word to get around the theatre was reopening.

A few dozen people waited outside this morning to be first in line to get a show dog, and catch one of the early movie showings.

“Definitely excited,” Hodges said. “It gives us something to do. Having this theatre so long here in Carnegie, people come from all over just to come here.”

Applewhite said reopening hasn’t been an easy task, costing him even more to fix things like air conditioning units that wouldn’t work after being shut down for so long. But he said through it all, he’s grateful for all the support from the community.

“People feel like this theatre is theirs,” Applewhite said. “They come feeling like they own the theatre. They love it. Seems like everybody that comes thinks that it’s the best theatre they’ve been to.”

Applewhite said COVID, on an average weekend, the Liberty Theatre would see over 2000 people through to catch a movie, and would sell over 2000 show dogs a day on those nights.

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