History of the Odeon
The Odeon Theater was built on Mason’s picturesque courthouse square in 1928, and it is the longest continually operating theater in west Texas. Described then by the local Mason County News as “the most attractive playhouse in this section of the country,” the theater opened with a showing of the German silent film, “Metropolis.” The pioneering science fiction drama, which was the first full-length feature film of its genre, was rescreened at the theater in 2018 in celebration of the Odeon’s 90th anniversary.
In 1957, the theater was the site of a special premier showing of the Disney movie "Old Yeller," based on the book by Mason native Fred Gipson. The worldwide premier of a second movie, "Savage Sam," based on another of Gipson’s books, was held at the Odeon in 1963. Today, Mason celebrates Gipson’s legacy with an annual Old Yeller Days each October.
After years of serving as a gathering place and entertainment hub for the community, the future of the Odeon Theater was put at risk when plans were announced in 1994 to convert the building to other uses. Concerned by the prospect of losing their beloved theater, many Mason residents, including children and teenagers, rallied to save the Odeon. As a result, community members formed the non-profit Odeon Preservation Association (OPA) to preserve the theater and to create a performing arts center that would offer movies as well as music, dance and live theater to Mason and the surrounding communities.
With a loan from Mason Bank, OPA purchased the building in 1994. A feasibility study for the remodeling was completed in May 1995 by Chartier Newton & Associates, Architects, funded by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and Texas Rural Communities, Inc., and work began to refurbish and enhance the theater. In July 1995, the building facade and marquee were repainted and the neon lighting was restored to its authentic late 1940s appearance by Tony and Jennifer Greer of Special Effects Neon Sign Company of Lubbock. Infrastructure had to be updated to meet current codes. Heating and air conditioning was replaced. Sound and projection systems were upgraded. As the work progressed, the community rallied at BYOC (“bring your own chair”) movie showings when the old, decrepit seating was torn out.
To repay the loan and invest in upgrades, OPA has held many fundraisers and cultivated a growing list of more than 400 individual and business contributors. The community has also invested countless hours of volunteer labor to help bring the theater back to life and to create a facility that will make diverse cultural experiences accessible to everyone.
Today, the theater offers first-run movies four nights each week, along with an exciting schedule of musical performances and special events. In 2018, the Odeon marked another milestone, completing the construction of dressing rooms and storage that will facilitate the production of live theater as well as accommodating the needs of other performers. In 2019, new, modern theater seating and an updated sound system are being installed.
If you would like to be part of the Odeon’s colorful history, please join us for a performance and consider making a tax-deductible donation to the OPA.
The first movie shown in October 1928 was “Metropolis.”
In 1957, the theater was the site of the premier showing of the Disney movie "Old Yeller," based on the book by Mason native Fred Gipson. Legend has it that Walt Disney attended the premiere.
Support the Odeon
Help continue our tradition of quality entertainment by making a tax-deductible donation.