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History of Shady Oak Theater (1933)

Former Location: 7630 Forsyth Boulevard
Clayton, MO 63105
Source: Internet search; St. Louis Post Dispatch
Shady Oak Theater, Clayton MO The theater's distinctive design, colonial revival and art deco was by noted architects, including Frederick Dunn and Campbell Alden Scott. The theater opened on May 3, 1933, and according to Cinema Treasures, took its name from an airdome (outdoor) theater next door that was shaded by oak trees.

The Shady Oak was part of the Arthur theater chain who operated as art theaters and they also ran the nearby Hi-Pointe Theater. The Arthur Theater chain went out of business, and the Wehrenberg Theatre chain changed the format to first run until the theater closed in August of 2000, a victim of multiplex theaters and a lack of parking.

The Colonial-style brick facade has three doors with arches and a small potico which stretches over the ticket booth. Although the front gives the appearance the theater is only one story it is not. The lobby has one story and further back stands the auditorium with it's balcony.

Due to the slope of the site of the building, Shady Oak Theater, Clayton MOthe small lobby was entered at a mid-level with stairs going down to the main floor seating and up to the balcony. The ceiling of the auditorium had a decorative coffered look that was achieved with concrete poured over pan forms, which is kind of a pre-curser to the waffle slab technique that became popular in the 1960's.

Over the years and through changing theater operators, the Shady Oak gained a reputation for showing high quality movies. In 1937, the owners introduced "foreign and domestic films of distinction," and musicals. In 1938, the Shady Oak went back to also showing Hollywood movies.

The theater was a rectangular shape with some art deco touches, mainly the wall lights. The lobby was sectioned into two parts, the main entrance plus the concesssion stand. The lobby originally had concrete walls but was paneled in a 1973 remodel. The ceiling held mirrors and cube modern lights. The concession stand attracted attention as the main focal point.

In 1977, Wehrenberg Theaters leased the building and operated it until the closing. Near its end, the theater had become a hip place to see "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at midnight.

The balcony held a major advantage for the Shady Oak of the 1980's. Many celebrities attended the theater because people wouldn't bother them and they could sit in the small balcony. Many St. Louis Cardinals players would attend the Shady Oak because of the privacy.

Shady Oak Theater, Clayton MO

FILE: AUG 27 2000: After nearly 70 years of operation, the Shady Oak movie theater on Forsyth Blvd. in Clayton, closed its doors Sunday August 27, 2000, after the 7 pm showing of "Autumn in New York." The Shady Oak opened May 3, 1933. Concession worker Craig Goodman puts the final message on the marquee while crew chief David Kirk and manager Sabrina Preston look on. (Hillary Levin/P-D)

The Shady Oak was bought in February, 2008 for about $1 million. Thomas A. Stern, president of Solon Gershman Inc., said an affiliated company bought the Shady Oak. Wrecking crews began to take down the 75-year-old Shady Oak Theater in November 2008 to make way for a parking lot.

Its familiar marquee will live on, safely in storage. Clayton's council members and mayor, who worked hard to keep the theater alive, saved the 4-by-6 foot sign that stood high above the sidewalk. Also saved were 200 yelowish bricks for use at a future fundraiser for the Clayton Century Foundation as "Paving the Way to the Future."

According to one account, a man supposedly killed himself on the site, sometime before the theater was built, and now his spirit Shady Oak Theater, Clayton MO
is believed to haunt the building. Poltergeist like activity has been reported. On many occasions employees have felt as if they were being watched by someone or something from behind the stage curtains. The balcony lights have been known to flicker off and on. The lobby posters have been found moved around when the theater is opened in the mornings. Cold spots have been reported as well as a voice saying "tsk, tsk, tsk" and moaning coming from behind the stage curtains.