Poncan Theatre History

A bit of history, Lobby Art and remembering Poncan Theatre artist Earl Sturgis.


Lobby Art


A bit of history, Lobby Art and remembering Poncan Theatre artist Earl Sturgis.

During the early days of the motion picture industry, theatres employed their own graphic artists to create "lobby art" to promote upcoming films. The Hollywood studios and promoters provided photographs and the artists would then paint the art for the local theater. Gone are the days of the independent theater artist and what was known at the time as the "exploitation department". Sadly, most of the artwork has been destroyed. Because canvas was expensive, it was reused many times, thereby losing the underlying art work forever. During WWII, the paper drives often cleaned out the art from theaters. Several years ago, the Poncan Theatre discovered a treasure of lobby art hidden away in the theatre. This unique collection is very rare. Through the generosity of patrons of the Poncan Theatre, these original works have been cleaned, framed and are displayed throughout the theatre. Prints of the historic art work, thanks to the efforts of Roger Hall (Visual Solutions), are on display in the theatre offices and prints (not framed) are available for $15 if you are looking for a special gift. Visit the Poncan for a tour of the restored artwork.

Guided Tours available: Monday – Friday 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Admission: $5.00

The local Poncan Theatre artist for many years was W. Earl Sturgis.

He worked as an Art Manager in Joplin, Wichita, and Dallas, before being hired by Fred Pickrel in Ponca City in 1937, working there until he retired in 1955. If you were growing up in Ponca in the 40s and 50's you will probably recall the banners that would span the width of the theatre entrance advertising the movie. Charles Hall recalls his time at the theatre watching Mr. Sturgis do his magic in the theatre "Art Shop" (which was located on the third floor behind the projection booth.). The smell of the oil based paint, his paint brushes and paint palettes, and the glitter he would sprinkle on the fresh paint are all special memories of the theatre. Mr. Sturgis would also occasionally do a portrait or a landscape. A portrait of Don Hall by Mr. Sturgis is displayed in the theatre lobby, painted in 1948.



Will Rogers painting a historical piece of Ponca City history and the Poncan Theatre

The historic Poncan Theatre Will Rogers painting was returned to the theatre by Central State University in 2008 at the request of the Charles Hall family. The painting had hung in Don Hall’s office (see picture) during his time as manager of the theatre. The painting is thought to have been painted by Richard Gordon Matzene, a well-known art collector. Originally the painting was commissioned to hang in the Will Rogers Claremore Museum but for some unknown reason was replaced by a nearly identical painting that now hangs in the museum. The painting is a part of the theatre art collection and is now displayed prominently in the central lobby of the theatre (also pictured)






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